During his online town hall yesterday, President Obama was asked about the healthcare system. And to be honest, we can’t ever think of a time when any politician said something this accurate about the subject:
The problem is, is that we have what’s called a legacy, a set of institutions that aren’t that easily transformed. Let me just see a show of hands: How many people here have health insurance through your employer? OK, so the majority of Americans, sort of — partly for historical accident. I won’t go into — FDR had imposed wage controls during war time in World War II. People were — companies were trying to figure out how to attract workers. And they said, well, maybe we’ll provide health care as a benefit.
And so what evolved in America was an employer-based system. It may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch. But that’s what everybody is accustomed to. That’s what everybody is used to. It works for a lot of Americans. And so I don’t think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps
Now granted, we have a few quibbles. We would like to see employer-based healthcare scrapped and we don’t think that merely building on top of a flawed foundation is the way to go. And beyond that, the problem isn’t so much that its employer-based, but that we don’t have a real market in healthcare.
But the fact that Obama’s recognising the long-term distortions created by a price control, and understanding how it’s haunting us today, is huge. And it’s a radical departure from his rhetoric during the campaign, when he vehemently attacked McCain’s desire to break the current system. (For what it’s worth, we don’t think McCain ever really understood his own proposal, which was obviously crafted by aides.)
And of course, Obama’s solutions will be different than ours. We expect him to favour a more socialist system with too much spent on dubious “preventative care”. But just acknowledging that we have a set of obsolete legacy systems is far more than past Presidents have done.
Seriously, where was Bush on any of this?