Midwest Opinion: A workable path to bipartisan health care reform
Nobody asked us, but ...
Here's an idea for getting to "yes" on health care reform.
Make that, here's an idea for getting to "yes" on bipartisan reform, an effort that might just win significant support from lawmakers in both parties.
Let's get right to it:
▇ Democrats—notably Senate Democrats, who have the filibuster—agree to let Republicans repeal Obamacare, probably over an extended period (say, five years).
Now, why on Earth would Democrats do that?
Because their concession would be part of a Grand Bargain, one that had been struck in public, shaken hands over with ceremony and avowed to by not only congressional leadership, but also President Trump.
Here's the Republicans' part of the deal:
▇ Republicans promise both to "start from scratch" with Democrats on a health care reform bill, and to let any bills that result reach the House and Senate floors.
Dumb idea? You're probably right. But here's why this kind of thing is what's necessary if America is to get the health care reform it needs.
That reform is bipartisan reform—reform that can become part of the American firmament and be tinkered with by subsequent Congresses without controversy.
The key in this scenario is that it respects a basic but little-acknowledged political force: the need for people to save face.
By letting Republicans repeal Obamacare, Democrats would let the GOP save face. Republicans have promised this repeal, so now, it's tremendously important for the party to deliver.
But again, the Democrats wouldn't be offering this gift out of the blue. In return, they'd be getting something they've long promised: health care reform.
And not just partisan reform (which is what the Dems have now), but reform for the ages—a 21st century version of the great Social Security and Medicare reforms of the past.
Party stalwarts will raise two big objections. First, once the GOP has gotten Obamacare repealed, why would it cooperate on a new bill?
Answer: Because it had promised to. And this wouldn't be just any promise. To win the repeal concession from the Democrats, Republicans basically would have to promise "before God," with the clear understanding that Americans would punish them if they broke their word.
As for Republicans, why would they agree to any deal that likely would create a new entitlement?
Answer: Not all Republicans would. But not all of them would have to. The reforms would need only enough GOP support to get to majorities (or preferably, supermajorities), when counted along with Democrats. That's the reason for pledging that the bills would make it to the floor.
Frankly, the new bill might even wind up looking something like Obamacare. After all, that plan famously incorporated some Republican elements.
But there'd be one "yuge" difference: this reform would be bipartisan. Both parties would have yielded, both would have gained. And America would be the winner overall.