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Michael Brenner Headshot

The Health Care Reform Debacle: Obama's Coming-Out

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Let's face the harsh reality -- Obama has blown health care reform, big time. The opportunity of a lifetime has been squandered. The most recent revelations about backroom deals with Pharma and the other vendors of medical services drops the curtain on any hope of serious change in our costly and inefficient non-system. This is a painful admission to make. Not only does the country remain handicapped by grossly sub-par arrangements for health delivery, we also are burdened with a president who has been discredited as a progressive dedicated to a betterment of how we conduct public business.

A quick review of what has survived an unbecoming process of deal making exposes the dismaying reality. For starters: no public plan; no wealth tax to help pay for cost incurred; no right for the government to bargain with Pharma on drug prices; no meaningful enforcement mechanisms to ensure that vested, for profit interests comply with whatever undertakings, explicit or tacit, that they have made. What do we gain? Not much. A commitment that everyone must be insured, yet with a much weakened employer mandate to accomplish it. An elimination of the most egregious practices of insurance companies re. e.g. pre-existing conditions, arbitrary termination of coverage. Some small subsidies for the working poor. These last are minimal. Someone earning $20,000 a year will get no subsidy unless insurance premiums reach $2,400 -- according to the Finance Committee bill. Good luck all you folks who work for $10 an hour -- you'll need it.

It is Barack Obama who is to blame for this. For months, he stayed aloof from the out-of-control Congressional maneuvering based on a strange belief in some kind of bipartisan collective will emerging by osmosis. He never leaned the weight of his person and his office to elements of reform that has been touting as candidate and then President. He deceived the country by pursuing secret talks with the very lobbies who are the heart of disgraceful national health care situation. He entered into deals that were weighted heavily in their selfish interest rather than the national interest. In short, we have gotten from him the antithesis of what we were promised and expected -- in the substance and process of policy both. We have instead a conventionally minded politician overly respectful of the status quo and deferential to those who control and profit from it, A man with no apparent fixed convictions.

Serious health care reform is gone with the wind. It cannot be retrieved. All other domestic issues pale in importance by comparison -- except for the financial crisis. On that front, Obama has behaved exactly as he now has done on the health care front. That is to say, viewing the world from the prejudicial perspective of the high and mighty while neglecting his duty to the citizenry and those who put their trust in him. The question: 'who really is Barack Obama?' is more compelling than ever. The answer looks to be more and more disheartening.