You got the feeling at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver that if Barack Obama were to win the White House, his party's first domestic policy priority would be universal health insurance. The financial crisis has changed that somewhat; now universal health care is Obama's number two domestic policy priority. Philip Klein helpfully explains why it will be much harder for conservatives to defeat Obamacare than it was to defeat HillaryCare:
The Washington Post reports that Tom Daschle, who hasn't even been formally named Secretary of Health and Human Services yet, is already engaging activists on the issue, asking for their input, and hoping build on the success that the Obama campaign had in mobilizing the grassroots during the campaign. This is not somebody who is taking the HHS job to manage its day-to-day bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, yesterday, America's Health Insurance Plans, the largest trade group of insurance companies, proposed its own universal health care plan, declaring that, "now is the time for health care reform." This is a stunning development, given that the insurance industry played a major role in the defeat of HillaryCare. In the proposal, insurers agree to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions, if the government imposes a mandate requiring that every American purchase health insurance. Meanwhile, to control costs, the group proposes "a public-private advisory group be created to provide specific policy recommendations to Congress on reducing health care costs" - which is similar to Daschle's idea of a Federal Health Board. They also endorse an expansion of S-CHIP.
The roughly $8 trillion the Bush administration has obligated so far to rescue the global financial system also makes it more likely that Obama will get some version of his universal health care plan. While such a plan will be expensive, and will likely grow only far more expensive in the future, the initial costs will pale in comparison to the trillions of dollars Bush and Paulson have poured into Wall Street.
Meanwhile, Obama's centrist economic and national security teams have the left feeling some buyer's remorse. To satisfy the left, Obama is likely to make a strong push for health care next year, as well as hand them the keys to the Labor Department, EPA, and all the various humanities programs (NEA, NEH, etc.). Our national checkup with Dr. Daschle is about due.