03 Nov 2009

Senator Tom Daschle on Health Care Reform

03 Nov 2009

This morning, I had the privilege of attending a health care summit which featured a 90-minute, down-to-earth interview with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.  If you remember, Daschle was ticketed for the Health and Human Services Secretary position in the new Obama administration early this year.  But he was among a long list of casualties when the White House apparently forgot to vet any of the early appointments for personal tax histories….

Still, it is clear that Senator Daschle is still very much involved behind the scenes with the current debate on what health care reform is, what it means and what form it might take in the near future.  Just a few takeaways from the Senator’s comments:

  • First, the legislative process pretty much ensures that whatever passes — if it passes — will be more moderate, and less effective than it could be.  That is, compromise piled upon special interest, divided by compromise tends to yield “Swiss cheese.”  Which, I took to mean “full of holes” rather than, “tasty, especially when combined with bacon, mushrooms and grilled onions.”
  • Second, it’s really amazing how long those catchy “Schoolhouse Rock” songs stay with you.  While Daschle gave us a little bit of Civics 101, I couldn’t stop humming, “I’m just a bill … on Capitol Hill…”.
  • Third, the reform legislation will be significantly affected by what Senator Olympia Snowe thinks (as well as Senators #59 and #58).  That is, a full “public option” is unlikely to be included up front; rather, it is likely to be included as a fallback option, to be subject to a “trigger.”  Which means, if reform doesn’t start to work as expected over the next few years, then the public option would be activated, but not before.
  • Lastly — and I was surprised by this — when asked to estimate the likelihood of reform legislation passing, Senator Daschle pegged it at … 60%.  Better than 50-50, but not by much.  From everything I’ve been reading and absorbing from various sources, I am pretty much thinking this is a done deal.  So, I was startled to hear that the Senator estimates a 40% chance of failure.  Hard to imagine continuing with the status quo, that’s for sure….
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