Universal Healthcare

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE….Ezra Klein has a very good piece in the American Prospect this month about why Bill Clinton’s 1994 healthcare bill failed and why a repeat performance next year might not. I’m not usually very optimistic about the chances of getting a good healthcare bill passed in the near term, and Ezra’s piece is the the first I’ve read in a long time that made me think there might be hope after all. Here’s a taste of his argument:

First, the moment is more amenable to reform — in part because the reality has worsened….”My personal index,” says Len Nichols, director of the New America Foundation’s health policy program, “is the ratio of family premiums to median family income. In 1987, it was 7 percent. Today it’s 17 percent. That fundamental dynamic, that health care costs are growing so much faster than economic productivity, means that even though unemployment is so low and the macro-economic indicators are good, there’s still intense, acute anxiety.”

….Business also seems exhausted by the ceaseless march of health care costs and ready for reform….The Divided We Fail coalition, for instance, not only includes SEIU and AARP, but the Business Roundtable and, more surprisingly, the National Federation of Independent Business, which was militantly anti-reform in 1994….[Senator Ron Wyden’s healthcare bill] is cosponsored by six Republicans: Robert Bennett, Judd Gregg, Norm Coleman, Lamar Alexander, Mike Crapo, and Chuck Grassley….”I think we’re building the sort of coalition that can break 60 years of paralysis,” says Wyden.

There’s more, too: Democrats are far more unified than they were in 1994. The healthcare plans on offer from all three presidential candidates are politically much savvier than Clinton’s. Unions are on board. And new groups like MoveOn, which didn’t even exist a decade ago, are around to help lead the fight as well.

The whole thing is worth a read. It might restore your faith in our ability to get something genuinely worthwhile done next year.