With speed that seemed amazing for a Congress that never seems in a hurry to do anything, nearly $1 trillion in new spending on health care has become the law of the land.
While most pundits are focused on the upcoming political season and what it might mean for the Democrats and control of Congress, we’d urge our readers to focus on the legislation and what it might mean for We the Taxpayers. Here are three key questions that need to be answered in the months ahead:
1. Will it actually work? The Obama administration has sold Congress on the health-care plan but it remains to be seen whether the bureaucratic machinery that’s required to execute the plan can be put into place. Very little of this will be known before election time, but within a year we should know.
With trust in government at a low, the health-care plan could be a big win for trust in politics — or a setback equal to the weapons of mass destruction fiasco in Iraq.
2. Can it help create jobs? The promise of health care is that it will give contract workers, freelancers and millions of self-employed people a chance to get healthcare without having to look for work. That could be a boon to small-business formation, which often begins with a single entrepreneur and an idea that grows into a flourishing company.
The theory, as yet untested, is that health care has held back the economy by discouraging people from leaving boring jobs to create new businesses because they are afraid of losing coverage.
3. Will health care mend itself? Health care is badly in need of a hefty dose of cost control. Exchanges that add competition, electronic records and closer regulation of insurance practices should be able to cut billions of dollars of cost out of the system.
But this depends on the system actually healing itself. Is that possible?
One of the few positive signs in the health-care debate is that Wall Street seems to like the idea — if only because it sees drug companies, hospitals and even insurers being able to profit under the new rules.
In the end, whether health care works will come down to a question of execution. And that may yet be the ultimate test of the Obama administration.