The State of NC Healthcare

“Bits and pieces” of healthcare reform?

Posted in Reform-in-progress by writemyline on 16 November 2008

From Can Obama Truly Deliver?   “On October 31, Obama told CNN that he would set five immediate priorities: “stabilize” the financial system, move toward energy independence, enact some form of healthcare reform, grant middle-class tax cuts, and strengthen the education system. But he made clear that the nation has entered an era of limits because the economy is in such bad shape.”

But will Election Day exit polls further influence President-elect Obama’s “todo” list? 

According to Kenneth T. Walsh of US News and World Report(USN&WR), “about 62 percent of voters said the economy was their biggest concern–far and away the most important issue. About 19 percent listed Iraq or terrorism, and 9 percent said healthcare.”  USN&WR did not report the numbers for voters mostly concerned with energy independence, education, and other issues. If exit polls determine Obama’s response to American voters and the order in which he addresses the country’s most significant concerns, then healthcare reform is not so high on the list. With the overwhelming majority of voters depending on deliverance from the current global financial crisis, Obama’s promise of healthcare reform is likely to fade in the background.

USN&WR says that Obama’s aides “expect him to compromise in his own particular way.” They say that the President-elect will likely “scale back each of his priorities.” An unidentified, but “prominent Democrat who knows him well” says Obama will do “bits and pieces” rather than abandoning or down-sizing the issues he promised to work on. 

As far as Obama’s healthcare reform plan, it is probably safe to assume that it won’t be as aggressive as promised throughout his campaign and could settle on “insuring everyone under 18 years old so no child would be without health insurance”–not exactly the universal care that appealed to voters most concerned about healthcare. While insuring those 18 and under is, indeed, a worthy accomplishment, whether it can boost the movement toward overall reform is questionable. 

One wonders if some or a little change is better than no change at all, particularly when the larger issues continue to burden the whole system of healthcare providers and institutions as well as the entire profile of the population they must serve. Can a government-initiated healthcare reform project set out on the path of least resistance and get anywhere, especially when politically motivated? Is it likely to make a lasting impact?

It will be necessary for President-elect Obama to continuously re-evaluate his priorities; still, the American people depend on progress or at least the hope of it. In regards to healthcare reform, it is critical that leadership fuel the momentum with the knowledge that lasting and positive change is a long-term goal, that results are often slow to come into focus, and that the final page will most likely be written by future leaders and subsequent administrations. With that said, perhaps President-elect Obama will be the one who truly initiates change–not necessarily the one who signs final legislation.

President-elect Obama has a difficult task ahead because not all voters are going to be satisfied with just “bits and pieces” of the expectations they cast along in the ballot box. As one of those voters, I am more hopeful that our President will initiate and engage in an effective healthcare reform process in which there is no turning back–one that, perhaps, may not come to an end under his tenure, but surely would not have started without vision and leadership.