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August 06, 2009

Dr. Obama’s secret cure

The explosive battle over national health-care reform is wildly emotional, the issues are madly complex, and the expectations are impossibly high.

As 7 million uninsured Californians face east to pray for basic medical coverage from the high priest of change, President Barack Obama and his populist administration face a nearly hopeless task: Get concessions from historically—and stubbornly—self-interested stakeholders.

Just ask Hillary Clinton, whose own reform efforts in the early ’90s met with a blunt death blow at the hands of conservatives equating “reform” with “complete government control.” Clinton herself did not help matters by sequestering herself with a handful of brilliant minds and delivering her secret proposal on the steps of Congress, arms folded: health-care reform as fait accompli.

But there may be hope. Not just the hope Obama brings with his stunning worldwide popularity, grassroots support and Democratic Congress. And not just the hope gained from Clinton’s lessons of reform meltdown.

No, Barack Obama has a secret weapon right here in California that may help him claim ultimate victory: our state’s own failed reform effort.

Although the state’s health-care effort flamed out just a year and a half ago—hammered at a Senate Health Committee by a 7-1 vote in bipartisan opposition—it remains one of the nation’s most successful stabs at reform.

The story of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s grand vision of universal care is packed with devastating illness, seething passion, fretful hand-wringing and vicious table pounding. It features every interest group imaginable, each with its own angle, agenda and ideology. Like a Hollywood thriller, the stories intertwine, good guys turn sour, and even the best intensions are suspect.

Most important, it serves as the best road map so far to guide Washington over the bumpy, dirty boulevard of health-care reform.

“A lot can be learned by those in Washington, D.C., on how the Schwarzenegger administration conducted the negotiations and discussions,” said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association. “Whatever happens in California from a major public-policy standpoint usually rolls eastward.”

“Some important momentum happened in California to get beyond the usual stakeholders,” agreed Daniel Zingale, a health-care policy veteran from the administrations of President Bill Clinton and Govs. Gray Davis and Schwarzenegger. On the national stage, “the stakeholders are not lining up as usual.”

“Our work in California laid the foundation for what the Obama administration is proposing,” said Assemblyman Dave Jones, head of California’s Assembly Health Committee.

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Posted by healthinsurance at August 6, 2009 08:50 AM