Unfinished Business

Clive Crook is upset:

Thanks to the unrewarded exertions of conservative Democrats, this health care plan has moderate, centrist ambitions. It is not socialism in disguise. Shame on liberal Republicans (if there are any) for failing to support it. Even so, the Democrats' claims for the reform have been dishonest in one crucial respect, and most voters understood this. It is right to provide guaranteed health insurance, but wrong to claim this great prize could be had, in effect, for nothing. Broadly based tax increases and fundamental reform to health care delivery will be needed to balance the books. Denying this was a mistake. What was worse--an insult to one's intelligence, really--was to argue as Obama has in the past few days that this reform was, first and foremost, a cost-reducing initiative, and a way to drive down premiums.

The Economist makes some related points:

The truth is that ObamaCare does much to expand coverage, but does too little to rein in health inflation. The reform effort did start over a year ago with aspirations of “bending the cost curve”, but Mark McClellan of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, explains that the most meaningful proposals have since been “watered down or delayed.” For example, an independent commission on reforming Medicare got defanged, and a promising tax on gilded (or “Cadillac”) insurance plans will now be diluted and delayed for years.

Indeed, it is likely that the laudable extension of insurance coverage now makes it more important to tackle the question of costs. On that, at least, left and right seem to agree. Paul Krugman, an economics professor at Princeton and a liberal booster of reform, said on the eve of the votes, “there is, as always, a tunnel at the end of the tunnel: we’ll spend years if not decades fixing this thing.” Robert Moffit of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank opposed to the effort, agrees, albeit in darker terms: “This marks the beginning of the next phase of this 100 years’ war.”