Monday, February 5, 2007

The Edwards Health Plan--Where Are the Other Plans?

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has proposed a comprehensive health care reform plan. (See the entire plan on his site).

Good for him!

It is going to be very easy for all of us to point to all the things we don't like about it.

But I will suggest there is something more important for all of us to do--ask where all the other candidates, Democrat and Republican, are with their plans.

It is conventional political wisdom in this town to keep your own health reform agenda as vague as possible and hope the other candidates will shoot themselves in the foot with a detailed comprehensive health care plan.

The Clinton Health plan fiasco of 1993 and 1994 taught politicians to stay as far away from health care reform details as they possibly can. I used to say about the Clinton Plan that it was 1362 pages of which every man, woman, and child in American could find 300 pages to strongly disagree with--it's just that everyone had a different 300 pages to hate.

Health care is one of those issues that if you put any kind of detailed plan on the table you are going to gore a lot of very powerful oxen.

John Edwards has gored his share with this plan.

But, if the American public (and the health policy establishment) now does what all the other candidates want them to do--hoot it down hard--we will get what we have had in the past. The other candidates--Democrats and Republicans--will only confirm their fear of being too forthcoming with health care reform details and not tackle this issue. They will give us just vague platitudes about health care costs, quality, and the uninsured. But they will not tell us about the important parts of what they would do--which oxen they would gore and how.

Don't take this as an endorsement for Edwards or his plan. Just his willingness to put the plan out there, gore some oxen (and not gore some he should have), and his courage in doing it. Sure, he's a distant third in the Dem polls and a dark horse with nothing to lose and a lot to gain. But at least he did the right thing in putting his plan (really a 7 page outline) out there.

If we all do what the other candidates expect us to and give Edwards the usual cynical reaction then the remaining first tier presidential candidates get exactly what they want and we get exactly what we don't want.

Wouldn't it be great to suspend our health care policy cynicism for a few months and let the hooting be focused at the front runners who haven't put their detailed proposals (oxen and all) on the table?

If Clinton, Obama, McCain, Giuliani, Romney, and the rest, all gave us their details, then we'd have something really productive to talk about!
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