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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Should We Repeal Obamacare?

As most of you know, the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to repeal President Obama’s health-care overhaul.  The measure passed 245-189. All of the House’s 242 Republicans were joined by three Democrats to support overturning the measure passed by the previous Congress and signed into law by Obama last March. While there is little or no chance that the measure will pass the Senate (or that President Obama would even sign the repeal), it does highlight a debate that has been going on in American society for some time now. My sense is that it shouldn't be repealed, but that it does need a lot of "tweaking."

The question of whether "Obamacare" should be repealed was the subject of a recent debate on Intelligence Squared US (it is also available through iTunes), which I have posted information on before (see e.g., "Should US Airports US Racial and Religious Profiling?"). Intelligence Squared US is affiliated with Intelligence Squared, a UK based organisation that stages debates around the world. The debates are held in the traditional Oxford Style. Those attending vote prior to and after a debate, and the winning debate team is decided by which way the vote swings. So, for instance, if prior to the debate the audience favors the propositions by 55% but after only 51% favor it, then the opposing team is considered to have won the debate.

I suspect that most of us read and listen to media that confirm rather than challenge our positions on various issues. What's great about listening to debates such as these is that it "forces" us to listen to the arguments of the "other side." We may not agree with the other side, but I've found that even if I remain unconvinced, many of my stereotypes of the other side have been called into question.

Those arguing on behalf of the motion that "Obamacare should be repealed" are Douglas Holtz-Eakin and John Shadegg. Those arguing against the motion are Jonathan Cohn and Paul Starr.  Their respective biographies are as follows (from the Intelligence Squared US website):

Douglas Holtz-Eakin has a distinguished record as an academic, policy adviser, and strategist. He is currently the president of the American Action Forum and a commissioner on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. He was the 6th director of the Congressional Budget Office and served as chief economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (2001-2002). He recently served as the director of domestic and economic policy for the John McCain 2008 presidential campaign.

John Shadegg is a former Republican representative for the 3rd Congressional District of Arizona. He has introduced legislation to promote patient choice, individual ownership and portability in health insurance. His two bills – the Patients Health Care Reform Act and the Health Care Choice Act – offer comprehensive, free-market solutions to health care by allowing individuals to choose a health care plan that best meets their needs.

Jonathan Cohn is a senior editor at New Republic, a columnist at Kaiser Health News, and the author of "Sick." He has been called “one of the nation’s leading experts on health care policy” (Washington Post) and “one of the best health care writers out there” (New York Times); he has also won the Sidney Hillman and Harry Chapin media awards. A graduate of Harvard, he is a senior fellow at Demos and member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Paul Starr is professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University and co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect magazine, a quarterly about politics, policy, and ideas. He received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction and Bancroft Prize in American history for "The Social Transformation of American Medicine," which is credited for helping to shape the debate about health care reform. He also received the 2005 Goldsmith Book Prize for "The Creation of the Media." During 1993 he served as a senior advisor at the White House in the formulation of the Clinton health plan.

The debate can be viewed or listened to here ("Repeal Obamacare?"). The transcripts are also available at this website.

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