Harry and Louise Revisted

The Clinton’s health care reform initiative went up in smoke for a lot of reasons- unnecessary complexity, poor public relations, weak White House-Congress negotiation skills and of course those enormously effective television commercials of Harry and Louise. The “average American couple” ( actually actors paid by the powerful insurance industry), Harry and Louise were able to raise doubts among real “average American couples” about whether the Clinton’s health care reform was the beginning of socialized medicine in this country with faceless bureaucrats running our hospitals and paying our doctors.

We are about to witness Act II of the health care reform effort as President Obama tries to do what Ted Kennedy and the Clintons were unable to do- make sure that every American is covered by health insurance. Don’t look for another replay of Harry and Louise, but the insurance companies, the hospitals, the doctors and their allies in the Republican Party are poised to stop what has come to be called the ” public option ” – code words for universal insurance mandates funded by the federal government.

 Even though Obama, in his usual attempt at bipartisanship, seems amenable to some sort of compromise on the ” public option”, the modern day representatives of Harry and Louise will have none of it as they say flat out that any effort to move the federal government into the health care business is a non-starter. Their biggest weapon this time around is that the cost of the “public option” may go as high as $ 1 trillion over ten years.

This time, however, Obama has some powerful allies that are not just the 47 million uninsured, but many in the business community, large and small, who are getting clobbered by health care costs. Obama senses that the time is right for a comprehensive health care reform bill that will save American business and the Medicare system, which is costing the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars a year to take care of the medical needs of grandma and grandpa.

But don’t look for the Republicans to give up without a fight to the death on health care reform. If anything, they know how to count and a bill that gives 47 million Americans coverage likely will turn out to be 47 million Americans voting Democrat in 2010 and 2012. The protestations of the conservatives and their Republican friends in Congress are not about socialized medicine or big government, but rather those 47 million votes.

There will be a health care reform bill before Congress before the end of the year and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth by all those special interests who want to protect their bottom line and their income. But there are just too many Americans who now realize that our health care system is too costly, too inefficient and too unfair. Harry and Louise won’t be a factor this time around.


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