Following passage of the US healthcare reform bill, I wrote about the impact of US reforms on medical travel in Asia for Asia Times. I promptly went into the hospital for three days of unscheduled research.
What could have sickened me was an article that broke just after the healthcare bill’s passage. The Associated Press reported that Republicans originated and supported the health insurance mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reforms. The mandate is now behind Republican cries of “Armageddon” and “the end of the American way of life,” to the extent there is anything behind those bleats beyond hot air.
According to the AP report, Republicans crafted the mandate during the 1990s as a private sector alternative to Clinton era healthcare reform proposals. At that time, Republicans didn’t see the mandate as socialism but instead called it taking responsibility. The individual insurance mandate is at the core the Massachusetts reform plan that Mitt Romney signed as governor and newly elected Senator Scott Brown supported as a state legislator.
What’s sickening to me isn’t that Republicans would so blatantly flip-flop strictly for political advantage and predict disaster from a policy they once championed. I’m appalled that during a 14 month fight for its political life, the Obama White House didn’t uncover and use the Republicans’ flip-flop against them. Unlike the arcane and windy arguments Obama and his team put forward to support healthcare reform, here was a sound bite sized argument that would put Republicans on the defensive about their opposition to reform they once championed.
At least one progressive political group uncovered Republican mandate support ahead of the AP, so why didn’t the White House? Heads should roll for failing to unearth such a tasty political truffle nestled right under their noses. Getting the healthcare bill passed doesn’t excuse the failure. There are plenty more tough battles to come – over financial reform and climate change, for starters – and the White House can’t afford to miss this kind of low hanging political dynamite, especially in an election year. Get some people in there who are smart enough and work hard enough to do the job right and give Obama the support he deserves.
Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.