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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Expected to Produce Health Care Reform

Few domestic priorities facing congressional Democrats generate more concern among voters than health care reform, and the challenge is aptly encapsulated in the title of Ezra Klein’s op-ed in today’s LA Times“Going universal: The American healthcare system is, simply put, a mess, but we may finally be ready to fix it.” Klein succinctly delineates the dimensions of the health care crisis and discusses some of the current reforms being debated. He believes the time is ripe for health care reform to gain some political traction:

Across the country there are unmistakable signs that the gridlock and confusion sustaining our sadly outdated system are coming to an end and that real reform may finally emerge…Nationally, the Democratic resurgence has returned universal healthcare to the agenda and its advocates to power. In the House, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont), a staunch Medicare-for-all advocate, is expected to be chairman of the health subcommittee.

Dems who want to get up to speed on public opinion on health care reform will find no better place to go than Ruy Teixeira’s article “What the Public Really Wants on health Care” at The Century Foundation. As Teixera notes:

The public desire for change in the health care arena is so strong that policy-makers would be well-advised to start concentrating on the issue now, rather than face the wrath of a frustrated public in the next election cycle.

Teixeira cites opinion data showing that nearly twice as many Americans are more worried about health care costs than unemployment and nearly three in ten say someone in their household has not had needed medical care or medicine during the last year because of cost. Teixeira also shows overwhelming majorities in favor of universal coverage and concludes that “The public is ready for change and the next election cycle is likely to punish those who stand in the way.”
Democrats in congress will have to decide whether “big package” health care reform is now tactically as feasable as a step-by-step approach. But when November ’08 rolls around, it is critical for Dems that a significantly higher percentage of Americans feel their health security has improved.