Sunday, February 12, 2012

Obama And Health Care Reform: Leading or Misleading?

Leadership is convincing folks to follow a new and uncomfortable path. Folks have to believe that the new direction will ultimately serve their interests, even if it feels awkward and unsettling at first. This works when there exists a foundation of trust between leader and followers. Otherwise, there will be doubt as to the motives of the leader who will be suspected of serving his own parochial interests, and not the greater good.  Consider some examples.

  • If your boss has always been stingy, it may be difficult for him to convince workers that the 'new and improved' health care plan is better for their families.
  • If a presidential candidate receives $400 haircuts, can he convince the hoi polloi that he understands the common man and his travails?
  • If a religious leader is discovered siphoning donations into his private accounts, will folks still call the ‘prayer line’ to offer a tithe?
When trust in the leader is squandered, distrust lingers and will frustrate and impede future leaders. Decades of dashed promises have created deep cynicism in our society. Want proof? Take a look at the public’s approval ratings of Congress – either party – any day of the year. With those numbers, it’s amazing that any of them get reelected, but they do, and repeatedly.

How well has Obama led on health care reform? Not as well as he could have and should have, in this blogger’s view. He deserves great credit for campaigning on the issue of health care reform and for taking it on as president. Passing Obamacare was a singular presidential achievement.

Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed, this wasn’t a result of presidential leadership. It was the result of Democrats voting in lockstep, with the administration cheering from behind. While I’m not suggesting that the GOP would have behaved like Eagle Scouts had they been in the majority, Dems dissed the Republicans and shut them out. Real leadership, especially on an issue of paramount importance to the country, should have forged a different path forward including minority participation and respect.

I still believe that the president believes that government controlled universal care is ideal, but he still can't state this outright, at least not yet. He hopes to achieve this, perhaps in his 2nd term. Elections matter.

Did the medical interest groups, who were feted at the White House really believe that their interests would be protected as they were promised? The strategy of pitting one medical player against another is good politics, but is it good policy? Does the country win when hospitals compete against physicians who compete against insurance companies? Why is the pharmaceutical industry, affectionately known as Big Pharma, demonized regularly by the government and the press? Sure, this throws red meat to the crowd, but don’t we need these guys to deliver the next generation of cures and treatments?

The public wasn’t led, it was misled. This is why they delivered the U.S. House of Representatives back to the GOP in 2010. Polling consistently shows that about half the country wants Obamacare repealed, although interpreting and crafting polls is tricky business. By any poll, it is clear that the country has not drank Obama’s Kool Aid.

Many years ago, a man was born on this very day. He was a leader who led the nation to where it needed to go. While he was a very ambitious man, he was always guided by the nation’s interest. His goal, as he wrote in his 2nd inaugural address, was to achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.  He is an inspirational model of leadership everlasting.  Can the other president from Illinois make this claim?

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Kirsch, I see a second career for you. This is very insightful and entertaining! Thanks so much again for your time today and passing this blogspot information to me. I am going to bookmark it for the future for knowledge and a smile!
    Take care,
    Maura O'Donnell