It’s easy to forget Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is a Democrat and last year was on the Obama administration’s short list for the job of Health and Human Services Secretary when the governor writes in a new book that 2010’s health care reform was “a stunning disappointment.”
He’s not saying he thinks reform doesn’t go far enough, a view held by some liberals and progressives who would like to expand the social safety net even beyond what the bill passed by Congress does.
Bredesen thinks it was a flat-out misguided bill, flawed from the get-go.
“The problem isn’t that we expanded coverage,” Bredesen writes in his new book “Fresh Medicine,” referring to the millions of uninsured and under-insured people who can now either buy insurance with the help of federal vouchers and the creation of state health exchanges.
“The problem was expanding coverage is about all we did.”
It’s “about all we did,” because Bredesen thinks that expanded entitlement saddles an already burdened federal government drowning in red ink with additional – and expensive – obligations.
The book is actually pretty readable, which might come as a surprise considering the governor has a physics degree from Harvard and tends to get, shall we say, a little wonkish at times.
“That’s sheer sophistry!” he once retorted years ago after hearing about a comment from a political opponent.
(“That’s nuts” would be a polite way I can translate that comment on this blog.)
In his book on health care reform, Bredesen sums up his disappointment with what’s been glibly labeled Obamacare in nine words – “When conditions are good, you do the hard things.”
Meaning, Bredesen thinks Obama and Congress should have used the groundswell of good feeling for the new president to transform the nation’s out-dated health care system from the bottom up. Rather than tacking additions on to it.
“Government loves complexity, rules and red tape, but we may have outdone ourselves this time,” Bredesen writes. “Reform offered a chance to clean up the baroque system we have created over the years, reduce bureaucracy, lower administrative cost and give clarity and focus to a major part of where we spend our taxpayers’ money.
“Instead, we created more complexity, more regulations and the need for more bureaucracy.”