Retreat, rethink, return to principles
Supporters of the current bills shouldn't ignore the strength or breadth of the Massachusetts message. As the bills slogged their way toward passage in the House and Senate, the substance of health-care reform -- costs, coverage, and quality -- vanished from the conversation. Substance gave way to unsavory deals benefiting a rogue's gallery of special interest groups. Ultimately, each bill disintegrated into a ganglion of payoffs. Budget analysts stated that the bills wouldn't reduce costs or achieve universal coverage. Quality improvement initiatives were thin and speculative. Deficit projections were tainted by accounting shenanigans. After Massachusetts, hurriedly forcing through one of these bills, or some patchwork version thereof, would be a disastrous mistake for the country and for those members of Congress who ignore the warnings that Bay Staters have handed them.
But at the same time, opponents of the current bills should not read Massachusetts as a license to sleep under a tree for another 15 years. For small business and for other Americans, the problems inherent in the health-care system are serious and persistent. The Massachusetts election did not make them go away. NFIB has consistently said that the status quo is not an acceptable option; that is as true today as it was yesterday or a year ago.
Properly read, Massachusetts gives both sides a second chance to do things better. Major social changes demand bipartisan solutions, and that possibility has suddenly returned to health-care reform...if Congress and the White House are willing to take advantage of the new environment. If so, the unsavory deals become unpleasant memories to put behind. Then we can return the principles that began the conversation over reform. Lower costs. More consumer choice. Autonomy for providers. Better quality care. Broader coverage. Private markets. Less red-tape. More efficient markets. Transparency. Fiscal balance. Tort reform. Better delivery systems. Rational reimbursement systems. Equitable taxes and benefits.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, "There are no second acts in American lives." Congress and the White House have an opportunity to prove Fitzgerald wrong. Small business is ready to get back to work.