Thus Paul Krugman.
This is very big news. One of the key questions about the new Democratic majority was whether Congress would try to play it safe, backing down on big ideas about reform, especially on health care. You can view the whole chorus about how we’re still a “center-right nation” as an attempt by the usual suspects to scare Democrats into scaling back their ambitions.
But now Max Baucus — Max Baucus! — is leading the charge on a health care plan that, at least at first read, is more like Hillary Clinton’s than Barack Obama’s; that is, it looks like an attempt at full universality. (The word I hear, by the way, is that Obama’s opposition to mandates was tactical politics, not conviction — so he may well be prepared to do the right thing now that the election is won.)
So this looks very good for the reformers. There’s now a reasonable chance that universal health care will be enacted next year!
In the Guardian, Dean Baker argues that universal health care would do double duty as an economic stimulus package.
Few presidents will come into office having generated the sort of expectations Barack Obama created over the course of his campaign. The country’s economic crisis poses substantial dangers but it also presents enormous opportunities. If President Obama is prepared to seize these opportunities, he will establish himself as one of the countries truly great presidents, alongside Lincoln and Roosevelt.
Specifically, Obama can take advantage of the current economic crisis to announce plans to jump-start national health insurance. Extending health insurance can be an effective stimulus that will provide an immediate boost to the economy. More importantly, it will provide the same access to healthcare that people in other wealthy countries have long taken for granted.
Extending healthcare coverage in this way is effectively eating dessert before dinner, but this is exactly what we want to do to counter the recession. It is important that we spend money now to boost the economy. We will be getting double-value if this stimulus can be spent usefully toward meeting a longstanding goal, like providing national healthcare insurance, rather than just buying things at the mall.