Saturday, August 08, 2009

Will the health care reform protests sway the decision?

Boisterous protesters at health reform forums certainly get great press coverage, but will they actually have any significant impact on the decisions about whether and how reform will occur? I think not.

Even without the noisy protesters, there are still plenty of thorny issues up in the air. That is why there were four separate reform proposals floating around in Congress and why Congress decided to punt and defer further decisions until September.

The protesters simply add another layer to the discussion and are simply raising the volume for the pre-existing objections from conservative Republicans.

Put simply, the protesters are not adding any new information to the debate.

In fact, by highlighting extremist positions and clearly false claims about health reform the protesters are inadvertently undermining the case against health reform.

I think that national (and local) polls are a much more valuable indicator of the level of support for health reform and the level and type of concerns that people have about both the current system and any proposed reform.

Clearly there are plenty of (non-protesting) Americans who have deep concerns about the reform "plan". And they should! After all, that is why there are four separate plans and key issues that are unresolved.

The good news is that Pres. Obama is striking a reasonable balance between staying out of the specific details of the reform proposals and staying engaged and keeping the heat on moving forward with a credible plan as soon as possible. In other words, he is being very realistic and very pragmatic. He knows what is at stake, both from the perspective of health care and health insurance on the one hand and the political reality of America on the other.

There are still plenty of important details which will be decided at the eleventh hour, which is typical of how Washington works, but sometimes that is actually a great way to get all of the relevant parties to focus more intensely on the decisions that really matter. At that stage, the extremist rantings of a few thousand mindless protesters will carry very little weight at all.

-- Jack Krupansky

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