President Bill Clinton is back on the scene and promoting health reform in Washington. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure I know. On the one hand, he certainly learned a lot of good lessons from reform’s failure under his watch and he remains the consummate politician. Both of those things point to Clinton’s ability to spur the Senate toward the finish line. Then again, he’s sort of the poster child for the last serious health reform effort–especially an effort spearheaded by Democrats–and its resounding failure. Is that an association that needs to be made? Might it open up anew a weak chink in the progressive armor?
I think it all depends on how much attention the media gives his efforts. If he’s relatively confined to the back rooms and recessed chambers of the Senate, I think he is a great resource that must be used. If, on the other hand, the public spotlight is placed on him, there’s a good chance that he’ll foster animosity among not only the right, but also the cynical left.
As I’ve written before, not much has changed since Clinton tried to pass reform. Now, according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine article by Bob Blendon and John Benson, it appears that public opinion on health reform is one of the things that hasn’t changed much between 1994 and 2009. That’s pretty interesting considering that the rising costs and other problems with the health care system have only gotten worse during that time. To me, that’s an indication that most people’s views are shaped more by ideology–which hasn’t changed–than by the realities of the health care system that’s failing them a little more every year.
The authors put it this way “Most Americans are not health policy specialists, and they are unlikely to read a long and complex piece of legislation. Instead, they will rely on trusted intermediaries to clarify its likely impact on them.” That’s quite true, and also quite scary, simply because of who qualifies as a “trusted intermediary” in many cases. Still, the one bright spot in the report is that Americans have a more favorable opinion of President Obama and his efforts than they did of Clinton back in 1994. To read the full report, which is available online for free, go here.