Did Massachusetts Sink Health Reform?

Barney Frank thinks so. Jonathan Cohn says go for it.

Much more in the national press about large role health reform played in Tuesday’s Senate race.

Kaiser Health News offer a good round-up, including this from Politco.

“Scott Brown’s opposition to congressional health care legislation was the most important issue that fueled his U.S. Senate victory in Massachusetts, according to exit poll data collected following the Tuesday special election,” Politico reports. The poll was conducted by a Republican firm; no news organizations conducted independent exit polls for this election (Catanese, 1/20).

(See my unscientific poll of ten voters in Cambridge, where Coakley won with 85 percent of the vote.)

If you ignore the snarky comments about Massachusetts*, The Health Care Blog offers a whole page of pontificating on health reform and the defeat of Martha Coakley.

Mike Millenson says that the White House did not do enough to sell reform to the public.

Throughout this process, Obama and his Chicago-bred advisers have been intent on avoiding the mistakes that sunk reform during the Clinton administration. But their diagnosis was flawed. Yes, Bill and Hillary stiff-armed both the special interests and their Republican opponents, falsely believing that public opinion polls showing widespread support immunized them from the insidious need for compromise. But while the Obama administration cut early deals with doctors, hospitals, insurers and the pharmaceutical companies, attempts to bring moderate Republicans into the fold conspicuously failed.

When the inevitable counter-attack on reform emerged, it made the infamous “Harry and Louise” ads of the early 1990s look like a C-SPAN broadcast of a CPA convention.

Writers at Kaiser Health News made the same point:

As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to pass a health plan with important benefits for the average American. For the typical family, costs would go down by as much as $2,500 a year. Adults wouldn’t be required to buy insurance. No one but the wealthy would face higher taxes.

But a year later, the health care proposals in Congress lack many of those easy-to-sell benefits, which became victims of the lengthy process of trying to win over wavering lawmakers, appeasing powerful special-interest groups and addressing concerns about the heavily burdened Treasury.

“There’s nothing in it the average person could understand about why your costs would be lower,” says Robert Blendon, professor of health policy at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “They don’t even have good illustrations about how it would be cheaper. They did not find a way to save money for people with job-based insurance.”

Finally, bad day for Democrats, good day for people who profit from the health care system the way it is now. AP via the Globe.

Among health stocks, insurers Aetna Inc. rose $1.30, or 4.2 percent, to $32.66 and UnitedHealth Group Inc. rose $1.38, or 4.1 percent, to $35.13. Pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. advanced $1.15, or 2.9 percent, to $40.62 and was the biggest advancer among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow industrials.

*From Health Care Blog, re Massachusetts

I’ve always thought that, given the absence of passport controls, if you lived there and could move to California and didn’t, you were probably crazy. And yesterday the residents of that fair state proved me right.

At least we’re fair.


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