With apologies to Edward Packard and Bantam Books.. (
R. A. Montgomery currently publishes CYOA with his company Chooseco, at www.cyoa.com
, and that Choose Your Own Adventure is a registered trademark of Chooseco)
The White House is always accusing the media of treating
health reform like a game. So..
Step 1. The health care system is broken and needs reform.
If you agree with this statement, please go to Step 50.
If you disagree with this statement, please go to Step 50.
Step 2: If you're afraid that ObamaCare will spell the end of
private insurance and be a total disaster, Go to Step 54. If you
support -- in general -- the consensus insurance reforms in the House
and Senate bill, go to Step 3. If you support a single payer system
and are worried that the White House has conceded way too much, go to
Step 3: If you believe that, even
with insurance reforms, health care isn't worth the effort unless it
includes a "public option," go to step 5.
you believe that "consumer protections," combined with some
cost-cutting measures, higher taxes on the rich, structural reforms and
inducements TBD are good enough, Go to step 4.
4: Congratulations. I've identified you, at heart, as a health care
policy wonk with center-left tendencies. Or, you work in the White
House. Go to step 6.
Step 5: You're outraged that the White House thinks the public plan is negotiable. Go to step 6.
6: House Democrats say that a conference bill without a public option
won't pass their chamber. If you believe their threat, Go to step 8.
If you think they're bluffing, go to step 7.
7. All your focus is on getting to 60 votes in the Senate. If you
think Sen. Ted Kennedy will be able to return to the Senate and cast
the 60th vote, go to Step 8. If you don't think Kennedy will return to
cast the deciding vote, go to Step 9.
You're focusing on a handful of Democrats and a few Republicans. If
you think you should play hardball, go to step 10. If you think you
should let the finance committee, messy as it is, reach a consensus, go
to step 11.
Step 9: If you think 61 votes is
undoable, you decide to take a gamble on the reconcilliation process.
Go to step 35. Else, proceed to step 8.
10: The White House fills in the details: reform is a must. It's a
clarifying issue. When the American people watch the final, final vote,
they're going to view the pro-reform side as being "right," and
senators need to get on the right side of history. If you think this
is sufficient enough, go to step 14. If you think this is an
insufficient threat, go to step 13.
Your base approval rating drops another 10 points. If you think this is
temporary, go to step 12. If you're worried, to back to step 6.
Step 12: Wait a while. Then go to step 16.
13: You have your chief of staff threaten to cut the balls off of any
Democrat who KOs his president's signature item. If you think this
will work, go to step 16. If not, go to step 15:
14: You bargain that the polarization of the health care debate will
diminish over time, and that appeals to logic and reason are
sufficient, and that things will sort themselves out in the end. If
you're confident, go step 16. If not, go back to step 8.
Step 15: You resort to bribery and trickery, are arrested, and thrown into jail. Game over.
16: The Senate falls in line, and passes a health care bill that
includes a government-funded co-op and no public option. The House
passes a bill with a public option. A conference begins.
you think this is plausible, go to step 17. If you think the Senate
won't fall in line and won't pass a bill, go to step 20.
17. Stalemate in conference. If you think the conference bill is
reported out WITH a public option, go to step 24. If you think the
conference bill is reported out without a public option, go to step 25.
20: Health care is scrapped for the year. If you agree with James
Carville that the Democrats should punish the Republicans for killing
it, go to step 21. If you think the Democrats should punish the
Democrats for killing it, go to step 22. If you think the Democrats
ought to remain mute, go to step 22.
Step 21: This works. Go to step 40. This doesn't work. Go to step 23.
Step 22: In January of 2010, The Democrats try again. If it works this time, go to Step 16. If it does not, go to step 23
23: Democrats are wiped out in the election of 2010,. having no
accomplishment to show for it. If you think this is a likely scenario,
go to Charlie Cook's symposiums. If you don't, turn on MSNBC. Game
over. Go to Step 61.
Step 24: The House and Senate pass a bill with a public option. Obama has won. Go to Step 61.
25: If you think House liberals will cave, having been sufficiently,
ah, induced, by the White House, go to step 26. If you think they will
hold, go to step 27. If you think the Senate Democrats won't support
the conference report with a public option, go to step 27.
Step 26. Go to step 24.
27: If you think that a permanent stalemate arises, go to step 20. If
you think that a third way compromise can be reached, go to step 28.
28: A third way compromise is reached. If you think that the House
and Senate manage to pass a bill and that Obama will get credit by the
American people and his base for health care reform, go to step 29. If
you think that Obama's "win" will be seen as a loss, go to step 30.
29: Obama, brimming with confidence, ends the year with high approval
ratings again. Democrats, sensing the popularity of the president and
his bill, have something to run on in 2010. Go to step 40.
30. You convene a conference to figure out what Obama should do in 2010
in order to cast his first year and a half as a success. Public opinion
gradually softens over time, and Obama's approval rating creeps up. If
you think it will creep up, go to step 40. If not, go to step 32.
32: 2010 opens with Republicans and Democrats on an even footing, but
President Obama has lost much of his luster, and struggles to regain
the magic. His experiment at political reform -- the Obama project --
has failed. Obama decides to govern as an unreconstructed liberal. If
you think this is a plausible scenario, e-mail me. If not, you recruit
Joe Lockhart and Joel Johnson to take over the White House. Go to Step
Step 33: If you believe that reform ain't
worth the paper it's printed on unless it changes the health care
system to single papyer, go to step 34. If you agree that the
consumer protections are worth having, even if the rest of the bill
totally sucks, go to step 4.
Step 34. The bus to Canada has plenty of open seats. Game over. Go to Step 61.
35. If the Senate parliamentarian is skeptical, go to step 8. If the
Senate parliamentarian lets you wind up with a pretty good bill, many
provisions sunset within five years, and you're consistently fighting
an implementation battle with Republicans. Go to Step 61.
40: Democrats lose, at most, a few seats in the House and one or two in
the Senate. It's possible that they pick up seats in both chambers.
50: You have private health insurance. You develop pancreatic cancer.
Your health insurer won't pay for experimental treatments. Go to Step
You have Medicare. You develop pancreatic
cancer. Treatment is available, but you won't get it for several
months. Go to Step 51.
Step 51: You decide that the health care system is broken and needs reform. Go to step 2.
Step 54: You are probably a Republican, or a conservative independent, or a libertarian.
Step 61: Turns out that the White
House underestimated costs. Congress approves emergency supplemental of
$500-billion and raises Debt Ceiling to $14.5-trillion.
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is a senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.