The Corner

Mending Health Care

These days, it seems like the actual arguments for the Democrats’ health-care proposals have all faded away. Remember back when OMB Director Peter Orszag was on television all the time talking about reducing costs? Have you seen him lately? Me neither. The case for Obamacare as cost reduction just won’t pass the laugh test anymore, and no one seems to make it. The case for covering everyone isn’t heard all that much either, since the Democrats’ plans won’t do that. The case for improved efficiency hasn’t really survived the machinations necessary to get a bill through the House and to get another to the Senate floor — as what remains after the wheeling and dealing is anything but efficient. It seems like the only case being made to (and by) wavering Democrats in Congress now is that the bill just has to pass. History is calling, we have never been closer to agreement, this is our chance, do it for the president, and on and on. The theory is that it’s this or nothing; some combination of the Reid and Pelosi bills has to pass or else we just leave our health-care system as it is.

But as Sen. Tom Coburn and former Deputy HHS Secretary (and regular Cornerite) Tevi Troy argue over at Forbes, this is no way to think about public policy. The notion that our only options are a massive new entitlement (complete with huge job-killing tax increases, a bloated new government program, and ridiculous budget gimmicks, but no real means to cut health-care costs) or just doing nothing simply isn’t true. There are lots of other options, and there is plenty of time to think them through and make some changes that actually improve our system. The two basic premises the Democrats are advancing at the moment — this or nothing, and now or never — are both false. As Coburn and Troy point out, there are better ways.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.