Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Get-Well Card for Health Care

As the new law turns one, the occasion recalls a greeting purportedly sent to a company president after surgery, "The Board of Directors wishes you a speedy recovery by a vote of six to five."

A year later, the public is still confused, Republicans swear to kill the law and the White House is sending out explainers to sing its praises. It's like combining a wake with a birthday party.

A new poll shows "Americans don’t think they like the Affordable Care Act, but they don’t want to be without it or left with whatever Republicans want to put in its place."

A close student of the law, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein concludes that it is "a lot more incremental than many people realize. More modest, by far, than the health-care overhauls proposed by Presidents Clinton, Nixon, Johnson and Truman.

"In 2019, once the law has been fully implemented for five years, it is expected to cover about two-thirds of the uninsured, to cost about 4 percent of what the health-care system spends in any given year and to cut the federal deficit by less than 1 percent. If you obtain insurance from your employer, Medicare, Medicaid or the veterans system--and that describes most Americans--you probably won’t notice the legislation at all."

Politically, an attack on "Obamacare" can swamp an eight-year wait for the full effects of an incremental set of changes crammed together into one of the sloppiest legislative sausages ever.

GOP front-running Mitt Romney, eager to make primary voters forget that his own state's reform served as a model for the mess, is celebrating the birthday by taking a cheap shot at it "If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states."

Meanwhile, insurance premiums keep soaring, health-care rationing spreads and pie-in-the-sky promises recede as "reform" turns one. Cake, as Klein notes, will not be served.

But, for the next birthday, at the height of the presidential campaign, there certainly will be fireworks.

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