Health reform should make conservatives very happy

Let’s get one thing out of the way.

The health care reform bill that passed the House this past Sunday, and will be fixed via reconciliation in the Senate, is a moderate, relatively incremental approach to fixing our health care system.

Conservatives are up in arms, as they have been during the entire process, and are lining up lawsuits and trying to gather momentum to repeal the bill.

And I’m asking myself, why?

They should be happy that this version passed, especially with the Democrats controlling the presidency and both the Senate and the House. Despite their claims otherwise, health reform doesn’t emulate Canada or the United Kingdom, meaning it is not a single payer system or a “government takeover” of health care. There is no public option. Medicare eligibility was not expanded.

In fact, it entrenches the private insurance system. Sure, there will be more regulation, but the companies will be left intact.

Will progressives try to “back door” a public option or expansion of Medicare? Sure they will. But that will be more difficult to do starting from the center, versus having those left-leaning ideas already built in.  Had the status quo continued, the health system’s eventual collapse would have forced a draconian government intervention — a far more nightmarish scenario for conservatives.

President Obama’s version of health reform is very similar to what former Republican governor Mitt Romney shepherded in Massachusetts. As Jonathan Chait wrote in the New Republic, “Obama’s plan closely mirrors three proposals that have attracted the support of Republicans who reside within their party’s mainstream,” citing Republican proposals in 1993.

Conservatives should be given credit, however, for shifting the plan to the center. It was because of their staunch opposition that forced removal of the public option, and kept Medicare from expanding — both of which would have increased government influence in our health system.

To be sure, those on the far left, single payer advocates mostly, are also disappointed in the law. Progressive Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, wrote last year in The Huffington Post, “Is the House bill better than nothing? I don’t think so. It simply throws more money into a dysfunctional and unsustainable system, with only a few improvements at the edges, and it augments the central role of the investor-owned insurance industry.”

The far right hates health reform.

And, apparently, so does the far left.

Which means it sits in a pretty good place in the center. And that’s just fine with me.

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