Where will Obama go on health care?

In our commentary today, Matt Brouillette and I argue that President Obama will pursue a somewhat tempered course – we will get the Obama of the general election campaign more rather than the primary campaign or “Marxist” version of Obama.  One example of this is health care, in which Obama’s ads portray him as a middle-of-the-road guy, somewhere between government controlled health care and free market reforms (though his ads hide how much his plan represents socialized medicine).

Our hypothesis will be put to the test quickly, as Sen Max Baucus (D – Montana) has unveiled a plan that even the New York Times considers pretty far to the left. Baucus’ plan would:

  • Require “guaranteed issue” – meaning anyone can wait until they get sick to obtain coverage, and can’t be denied – and “community rating” – which means everyone has to pay pretty much the same rate whether regardless of age, health, or behavior.   Even those these regulations drive up the cost of insurance in states that have them, Baucus would call for them to be imposed nationwide
  • Additionally, employers would require to “provide” “health insurance” to employees (note that they are in quotes, as the federal government will define both terms on what they will require employers to do) or face a fine or tax.
  • Additional subsidies for government health insurance and Medicaid, even though government health insurance and Medicaid often provide worse results for recipients that being uninsured.
  • Mandates for individuals to obtain insurance – even as cost skyrocket because of the mandates imposed by the federal government.   The Massachusetts model should indicate exactly why individual mandates are no silver bullet.  

Obama opposed individual mandates (and during the primary, before he began to move the center), arguing that we need to control costs in health care, not force people to buy insurance regardless of the cost.  Indeed solutions we have proposed are indeed aimed at lowering costs, to allow more people to afford private insurance, and to benefit those already insured.

The NCPA has more on the flaws of the Baucus plan. The question, however, is whether Obama will “avoid controversy,” as we predicted, or support a plan more radical than his own.