I keep reading commentary about the Republicans’ terrible failure to work with the Democrats on health care. (The New Republic ran an editorial calling the Republicans’ obstructionism a crisis for our political system.) Yet the administration could have had the support of nearly all Republicans and a minority of Democrats, and have had legislation passed today, if it had pursued a different vision of health-care reform: one that extended tax credits to people locked out of employer-based insurance and removed state regulatory obstacles to the emergence of a national market in individually purchased insurance.
If Obama had followed this path, most liberal health-policy experts would have screamed that he had betrayed the cause, since the policies I am describing formed the McCain plan during the last campaign. I don’t really fault the Democrats for not violating their own views of sound health-care policy. But neither do I fault the Republicans for not embracing the same health-care policies they rejected in 1994. The parties have incompatible views of where health-care policy should go. If the Democrats want to do something comprehensive, they will basically have to go it alone. Everybody knows this, and everyone should have known it all year.