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Validation on Health Care Reform

In an interview with The Hill, outgoing Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has come to admit that, in hindsight, most of the strong political and policy criticism I (and Firedoglake) were making during the health care reform debate were correct. From The Hill:

“We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly and we didn’t do it,” Harkin told The Hill. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.

What we did is we muddle through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively,” he added. […]

He believes Congress should have enacted “single-payer right from the get go or at least put a public option would have simplified a lot.”

It is always worth remembering that Senate Democrats could have just done away with the filibuster or used reconciliation to pass a much better health care reform bill with a simple majority.

Harkin’s remarks also highlight the true potential value of a public option. It wouldn’t have just reduced the deficit or given people more choices. A public option could be used to make the entire system dramatically easier and more user-friendly for people.

The exchanges could have been set up to automatically enroll all the uninsured into the public option, with people having the choice to opt-out or instead shop around for a private plan. This would have dramatically reduce the hassle for most people.

Instead Democrats went with a design that financially punishes regular people if they don’t under take the complex task of shopping around for insurance every year. A process that according to a new poll from Bankrate, 75 percent of people feel is at least as unenjoyable as doing their taxes.

The only thing I can’t understand is why it took five years for Democrats to to adopt forcing people to undergo a very stressful shopping process to get insufficient coverage from deeply unpopular private insurance companies was a really stupid political move.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at