Health Care Speech: Wrapup

So, the speech.  Here's what we've got:

  • Guaranteed issue
  • Community rating
  • Portability
  • Exchanges
  • Mandate
  • Deficit neutrality
  • The public option is negotiable

In other words, virtually nothing that we haven't heard before.  The most powerful parts were the beginning and end, but I wonder how many people were watching by the end.  Television is not a good medium for detailed policy.  The need to lay out all of these details interfered with the normally stirring flow of his rhetoric.  Interjecting attacks on Republicans and insurance companies did little to liven it up.

At least the Republicans have a set of talking points that everyone hasn't heard already, though about all you can say about the Republican response is, well, erm . . . he's not nearly as robotic as Sebelius was!

However, I think the line he's taking is smart.  Start over and do it on a bipartisan basis, which polls well.  Don't add another layer of hard-to-understand bureaucracy.  Don't break the budget.  They're putting out a platform of modest, easy to understand reforms that can be done "without destroying jobs, exploding the deficit, rationing care, or taking away the freedoms American families cherish."  Emphasizing their desire for a bipartisan package is going to make it harder for Democrats to push this through on their own.  But only if they actually get that message out early, consistently, and often.  Republicans have not exactly been bringing their A game recently.

In the end, I think this speech satisfied no one.  There's a little information for the wonks, but not nearly enough.  There's a little stirring rhetoric for the non-wonks, but again, not nearly enough.  Journalists seem to have liked it.  But if journalists were any reliable key to the sentiment of the American people, we'd already have national healthcare, and national second homes in Maine.

Overall, I'd expect a modest bump, but one that will be sorely tested as Republicans roll out their attacks.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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