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March 21, 2010

Health Care Bill Passes

A couple of months ago, I predicted what I thought would happen to the health care bill in the wake of Scott Brown's Senate victory in Massachusetts. My predictions were thankfully wrong about the ultimate outcome of the bill. They weren't as wrong as Barney Frank was, who weirdly pronounced health care completely dead (and really shook my faith in him as a leader), but they still underestimated reality.

I have to remember a point that I often make to other people. Those of us that try to be fact-oriented are not really used to being on offense. For those of us who really started paying attention to politics during the birth of the internet age, this is our first experience at really paying close attention at how legislation is done.

And the amount of times something can die and come back to life is mind-numbing. If this were a movie, it would have an awful plot. If our hero died that many times, we'd be considering walking out of the theater, telling him to just die already. Maybe it's satisfying in a pulp fiction sort of way, like in the old radio serials where our hero faces certain death every fifteen minutes.

Nevertheless, it lived, and now it appears immortal. What matters isn't so much a matter of the policy details. It's that an entire frame has been demolished by a new frame. The old frame was that universal health care was a McGuffin, something that would never happen, from being uniquely incompatible with America. The old frame was that an attempt would come along every twenty years, and then be left dormant. And the old frame was that health insurance was something that people would get if they were self-reliant enough to pay for it, or have the kind of employment that would give it to them.

Now the frame is that health coverage is the rule, and not the exception. That people can't have their life ruined if they get sick and then recover. That the nation has a self-interest in looking after the health of its population. This is going to take a while to sink into the nation's psyche, but it's going to have all sorts of butterfly effects. People are going to start arguing for more efficient care, and the government isn't going to be able to abstain. The government will become more efficient, and will be able to use its resource more efficiently in other areas. The population will become healthier as they worry less about being screwed by their insurance policies. They population will become more mobile in terms of switching jobs, and more entrepreneurial as they find less barrier to forming their own businesses.

President Obama said tonight, "This is what change looks like." He was referring to how change often has to be incremental. But it also applies to our incremental understanding. We only have a glimmering of an idea of what kind of change this will create. We'll know a lot more later.

Posted by tunesmith at March 21, 2010 11:18 PM


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