Flying Blind in Policy Reforms

The long and divisive fight over U.S. health care reform exposed basic weaknesses in the processes of governance. As is so often true in American politics these days, politicians and lobbyists kept complex subjects to themselves, pushing expert discussion and systematic public debate to the sidelines. Although the final legislation expands coverage, and I favor it for that reason, it falls far short of the changes we need to lower costs and improve health outcomes.

During 14 months of debate over health care, the administration did not put forward a clear, analytical policy white paper on the aims, methods and expected results of the proposed reforms. Only the Congressional Budget Office’s budget scoring of legislative proposals was even partly systematic; no comparable independent analysis exists on other substantive issues. The actual health consequences of the legislation were never reviewed or debated coherently.

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