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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

TDS Co-Editor William Galston: Obama Needs Fear As Well As Hope

As we await the president’s heatlh reform speech tonight, TDS Co-Editor William Galston, writing in The New Republic, succinctly describes the challenge Obama faces in appealing to people who are reasonably happy with their current health care options:

[T]he president now faces a two-front challenge. First, he must persuade skeptical middle-class voters that his plan will in fact allow them to keep what they have. Second, he must paint a compelling picture of what they stand to lose if we do nothing–higher premiums, reduced benefits, more out-of-pocket cost, and steadily diminishing employer coverage in good times as well as bad.

Premiums for a typical family health insurance policy, notes Galston, have more than doubled since 2000, and middle-class folk are losing employer-based coverage in the current recession at an alarming rate.
As Jonathan Cohn, in a separate TNR piece, says about Medicare beneficiaries:

As is so often the case with health care, the choices aren’t exactly as the public perceives them. Seniors don’t have the luxury of picking between the Democrats’ plan and the status quo. Instead, the choice between them is between the Democrats’ plan and a steady deterioration in the program’s finances–all but forcing the sort of radical scaling back that Republicans tried to push through in the early 1990s.

That about sums it all up. On complicated issues, inaction always seems like an acceptable option, particularly if you’ve been convinced to fear change. But on health care, inaction ought to be particularly scary.

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