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The Gray Lady Is Singing. Does That Mean It's Over?
(Martin Barraud/Getty Images)

The Gray Lady Is Singing. Does That Mean It's Over?

Walter Russell Mead

The New York Times has been carefully and tactfully preparing its readers for the failure of Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation. That long process has taken another step forward with this story:

The fierce struggle to enact and carry out the Affordable Care Act was supposed to put an end to 75 years of fighting for a health care system to insure all Americans. Instead, the law’s troubles could make it just a way station on the road to another, more stable health care system, the shape of which could be determined on Election Day.

Seeing a lack of competition in many of the health law’s online insurance marketplaces, Hillary Clinton, President Obama and much of the Democratic Party are calling for more government, not less.

On top of the recent Blooberg piece about the implosion of Obamacare in Minnesota, even the hardiest defenders of what was once presented as the greatest Democratic policy innovation in a generation are now having to concede that it looks more and more like the inevitable failure the critics have always said it was. There is lots to chew on here, and the worried blue outlets now edgily coming to terms with one of the greatest failures in Democratic Party history still can’t quite admit the full scope of the failure. Naturally enough they are calling for more of the same: more bureaucracy, more centralization, more complex webs of cross subsidies, more ‘free’ stuff for more people.

In this year of Trump, the GOP is less well positioned than ever to offer sensible alternatives. So hundreds of billions of dollars after the Great Obamacare Experiment was launched, the country has a health care system that is more dysfunctional than ever, and is led by two political movements who have no idea what to do.

This is a terrible shame. Getting health care right isn’t just a question of helping the sick or even of avoiding national bankruptcy. Turning our health care system from a costly drag on our economy and society into a source of dynamism, innovation, growth and renewal is the biggest single opportunity the United States has today. A mix of market-oriented reforms, research into new service delivery options, a commitment to improve access for the poor—the elements of a grand bargain are here. The information revolution offers an unprecedented opportunity to make health care cheaper, better and more user-friendly all at the same time, and to give U.S. companies a competitive boost that will astonish the world in the way that Silicon Valley and fracking have done.

Instead, we have one party in paralysis, and the other looking to double down on what has clearly failed.

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