There are endless analyses of yesterday’s health summit, all of which probably add as much to the debate as the meeting itself. To wit: No one is changing his or her mind because of the talk-fest.
(One common reaction — see an example here from Slate, not exactly a hub for right-wingism — that I do find interesting is the idea that Obama and the GOP delegation both came out looking better than the congressional Democrats. That strikes me as either an acknowledgment that Republicans exceeded expectations, or that Democrats may have passed a bill a long time ago if they had better leaders in Congress; feel free to discuss below.)
If minds weren’t changed, though, I have come across one particularly interesting suggestion for a next step forward. Here’s Arnold Kling of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, writing at National Review Online:
I thought that President Obama did well to convey a willingness to negotiate. If I were the Republicans, I would move off the “scrap the bill” talking point and instead go with something like this:
We have some areas where we agree, some areas where we might negotiate, and some areas where we can never agree. That suggests a three-track approach.
1. Fast track. For issues such as ending waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare, we should aim to pass a bill within 30 days that contains all the ideas on which we agree.
2. Negotiation track. These would be issues where compromise is possible. For insurance competition, the president expressed concern that allowing interstate sales of insurance could cause a “race to the bottom.” That may be a legitimate concern, but it is hypothetical. Instead of preemptively regulating the insurance industry, why not try the Republican approach and see what happens? Meanwhile, create a competitive-practices board for the insurance industry that would monitor the industry and issue public reports on abusive practices. Congress could later vote to convert this board into a permanent regulatory board if public pressure demands it.
I would put the Medicare-cost commission on the negotiation track. But I have long been more willing than most Republicans to endorse doing cost-benefit research on medical procedures.
In principle, the issue of expanding insurance coverage can be put on the negotiation track. But if I were a Republican legislator, I would take a hard line against funding expanded coverage with budget gimmicks, enforced cross-subsidies, or Medicare cuts (again, not that I am against Medicare cuts, but they need to be applied to improving the financial health of Medicare). I would take a relatively softer line against funding more coverage with taxes in an above-board way.
3. Gridlock track. Issues like public funding of abortion or malpractice reform probably go here. Agreement and compromise are not likely.
For all I know, Kling has been calling for such an approach for some time now. But it strikes me as an idea that has found its moment. It’s exactly what I have meant in calling for starting over.
What would you put on the “fast track” versus the “negotiation track”? (And please don’t suggest “tort reform” or the “public option” for the fast track — knowing full well that those polarizing ideas are exactly what we’re trying to distill from the more commonly accepted ideas.)