Another day, another voice chiming in to tell us pushy health care advocates that we should hold onto our horses. Have a little patience. Just...wait. A little longer.
Which, of course, is code for "let's wait to pass health care reform...until hell freezes over!" (Cue evil, echoing laughter.)
So who's our latest Sammy Slowdown? None other than Democrats' very good friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman, of course. He's just told Americans that we all need to take a deep breath, because--did you know?--we're in a recession, and in recessions, thrifty countries can't afford things like health care reform. "There's no reason we have to do it all now," he says.
Well (surprise, surprise) this is not exactly an accurate statement. Ezra Klein takes Lieberman's argument apart:
First, we probably are out of recession.A new report by the Commonwealth Fund states that if no reform is enacted, "health insurance premiums could increase 94 percent" by 2020. That's $23,842 per family. Ouch.
Second, health-care reform is scheduled to begin in 2013, by which time we will almost certainly be out of recession, and if we're not, we have bigger problems. Lieberman might be uncommonly pessimistic about our prospects for growth, but that would imply support for health-care reform, as it will pump a trillion dollars into the economy and thus stimulate demand.
Third, the costs of reform largely manifest in the later years of the decade, namely 2015-2019, by which point we may or may not be in recession, but if we are, it will probably be a different recession than the one we're in now.
There is, in other words, no connection between whether GDP growth is slightly negative in the third quarter of 2009 and whether we should spend money between 2013 and 2019 building a universal health-care system.
And that's not even addressing the growing Medicare crisis. The L.A. Times reports that:
If costs keep growing at their current rate, healthcare will consume 20% of all spending in the U.S. by 2018. Nevertheless, critics of "Obama-care" argue that the country can't afford the reform bills moving through Congress. They claim the added costs imposed by the reform would lead inexorably to painful cuts in existing federal health programs, particularly Medicare. These concerns aren't unreasonable, considering the pressure that the enormous federal deficit will put on government services. But the better question is what might happen to Medicare if the healthcare system isn't isn't reformed.With costs rising rapidly for health care, and Medicare without the reforms it desperately needs to stay solvent, doing nothing looks like the most irresponsible--and expensive--option of all. When politicians like Lieberman ask us to wait a little longer, we have to say no. Now is the time, and all the lame excuses in the world won't change what's right--we need meaningful health care reform, here and now.