Have we reached the tipping point?

John Taylor: January 17, 20070 Comments

I asked a Valley congressman last year what it would take for Congress to make significant changes in the nation's dysfunctional health care system.  It'll happen, he said, when General Motors and the other large industries lobby Capitol Hill as a coalition, demanding action.

Well, GM doesn't have the clout it once did, but a pent-up frustration with high cost, sometimes questionable quality and increasing numbers of sick, uninsured people still making our tossed salads has created unusual partnerships at the state and national level.

In California, it's Gov. Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Peralta sketching out reform plans -- even without specific legislative wording, they're being held up as a model for the rest of the nation. The same thing happened when Massachusetts mandated all residents purchase health insurance.

Now, AARP is sidling up with the Business Roundtable and Service Employees International Union.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is in coalition with Families USA.  The odd linkages will require each to make concessions to accomplish change, wrote Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein.  Some kind of basic universal coverage, with subsidies for the poor, may be the best outcome, he suggested.

"Reform has to come from Washington, but it's possible that a handful of case-study states can show the way," said Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation president, in a Wall Street Journal story.

As the parent of four working adult children who have no insurance, it makes sense to try to tip over a malfunctioning traditional mechanism of care.