Small signs of a health care deal forming

The question is whether voters will approve what comes out next year when they go to the polls.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

There are signs today that some Democrats and Republicans are willing to jettison their electoral bases to get a health reform deal done.

In the White House, aides to President Obama are seen as desperate for progress. They see the Clinton Administration as having been wrecked by the inability to do a deal, they see Medicare as having started from a relatively small base, and they see the guns of August as having been harmful to both sides.

The question is whether there is anyone to deal with.

The New York Times says yes, there is. They point to substantive, as opposed to rhetorical, arguments coming out of conservative think tanks.

One of the key moderate Republican spokespeople seems to be Gail Wilensky (right, from her Web site), a veteran of both Bush Administrations who is now affiliated with Project Hope.

These conservatives like the President's idea for cost controls, especially the idea of changing market incentives from fee-for-service to fee-for-wellness, but want tax policy deployed to encourage these trends rather than government mandates.

Blue Dog Democrats whose votes would be necessary to passage of any plan, meanwhile, are mostly keeping quiet and seeing if something emerges they can support. Essentially they seem to want the think tanks to negotiate for them, and will vote aye with the Heritage Foundation even if Republicans vote no.

Ironically the Republican idea with the most traction right now seems to be nationalizing the health insurance market, along with a promise of tort reform so national legal standards prevail in the single market. A combination of subsidies and tax breaks would push more people into buying coverage.

This will not please activists on either side. Democrats in the Netroots will cry sell-out. Republican activists who have been energized by all the talk of death panels and destroying the President politically are unlikely to accept any compromise.

The basic argument, between health care as a choice and health care as a right, will remain after a compromise is struck.

The question is whether voters will approve what comes out next year when they go to the polls.

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