Friday, July 10, 2009

Is There Anything Public in the Debate on Health Care Reform?

Remember during the campaign season when (then) candidate Obama promised a public debate on the future of healthcare? From McClatchy:

Campaigning for president, Barack Obama said repeatedly that any overhaul of the health care system should be negotiated publicly and televised for all to see. Throughout this year's negotiations, however, the big deals have been struck in secret.

With tax increases and limits on what's covered among the possible ways of offsetting perhaps $1 trillion over a decade in expenses, neither the administration nor Congress is willing to give up its right to do the most sensitive talking in private, as it's always been done.


The notion of televising negotiations behind a health care revamp was so central to Obama's campaign promises of change and openness, however, that it became part of his stump speech as he traveled the country in 2007 and 2008.

He'd describe how televised deliberations would take place around a big table, with seats filled by doctors, nurses, insurers and other interested parties. As president, he'd joke, he'd get the biggest chair.

"Not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN," Obama explained in a Democratic debate in Los Angeles in January 2008, in language similar to many of his campaign stops.

However, the two biggest deals so far - industry agreements to cut drug and hospital costs - were reached in secret.

So with much of the debate happening behind closed doors, is it any surprise that the public option is facing difficulty even getting consideration from Congress? Wouldn't it make sense for our elected representatives to have a public debate on this issue considering that the majority of Americans want the public option to be included in the discussion on health care reform?

Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake, thinks so. She was on MSNBC yesterday discussing health care with Jillian Bandes, a reporter for when things got spirited:

Maybe Bandes is right...I mean if we start thinking that health care is a basic human right then what's next - food?


Agnes said...

Are Cheetos a basic right. Because I want my Cheetos! Oh, and Snickers. Can I get me some Snickers along with health care.

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