Since before his inauguration, President Obama has made it clear that health care reform would be a top priority for 2009. And for the last few months, it looked like the stars might all align for a comprehensive re-vamp of America's health care system:
Obama's election mandate, along with the Democrats' pick-up of a significant number of seats in the House and Senate, was tied to promises of health care reform.
- The economic crisis highlighted the high cost of health care for both individuals and families.
- The White House's strategy of providing broad, general direction on health care reform while leaving the details to Congress seemed to get members of Congress engaged and excited about the policy and process (this is in stark contrast to the Clinton health care reform push in 1993-4, where many observers accused the Administration from shutting Congress out of the process).
- There had been a successful White House kick-off event that garnered bipartisan support and brought all the key stakeholders together (hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies, etc.).
- There had been reports of very productive meetings between stakeholder groups, Democratic Senate staff, and Republican Senate staff in so-called "workhorse groups," each focusing on a specific aspect of the health care system.
- Senator Ted Kennedy's waivering health gave extra impetus to quickly address health care reform legislation, the crowning achievement of what has already been one of the most remarkable political careers in American history.(7) An ambitious schedule, with the goal of passing health care reform legislation before the August congressional recess, seemed able to keep everyone focused and the process moving forward.
Photo Credit: Donovan Kuehn
About a week ago, all the momentum still seemed to favor health care reform being adopted in 2009. Since then, however, the prospects for easy health care reform
markedly. A few things explain the change: