In my house, we don’t have enough closet space. Our son doesn’t have enough room to play around. And our kitchen is in desperate shape, and needs a complete overhaul.
We contacted a contractor to give us a proposal. We talked to our bank about getting a home equity loan. And we talked about our big plans to completely renovate our house.
We knew that if we would go forward with the project, it would cause some disruption in our lives. We would probably have to move out of the house for a while.
But we were willing to deal with the disruption for a little while, because we wanted some new closets, a new kitchen and a new playroom for our son.
And then we got the proposal and we had a severe case of sticker shock. Sure, we could take out a bigger home equity loan, but that would cost us a lot of money, and we weren’t sure if we would ever get our money back in resale value.
So, we decided to take an incremental approach. We decided not to bite off more than we could chew. We decided not to completely disrupt our lives.
I was thinking about the value of the incremental approach when it comes to the health care debate.
The president wants to radically renovate the whole health care system all at once. Although the U.S. probably wouldn’t qualify for a home equity loan, the president doesn’t care. He is actually going to charge his neighbors to help pay for his renovation. He won’t say which neighbors quite yet, but don’t kid yourselves. You are probably one of them.
His health care renovation will be very disruptive. Some people will be forced to buy insurance even if they don’t want to. Others may see their health care premiums increase more than they usually do. Others may find that they will be forced to buy their insurance on a government exchange.
But no matter how disruptive his plan will be, he is going forward.
He wants the new kitchen, the new playroom, the new closets and perhaps a new Jacuzzi in the backyard. (Hey, as long as you are renovating, you might as well get a hot tub.)
The American people, though, don’t want a complete overhaul. They don’t want a new hot tub. They know we can’t afford it right now. They want to just fix the closets.
Instead of fixing all of the problems now, when we can least afford such a bold plan, let’s fix some of the problems that we can fix cheaply. Instead of trying to completely tackle the huge problem of health care access, let’s try to find ways to control costs. Let’s introduce some true competition in the marketplace. Let’s get rid of state protected monopolies. Let’s let small businesses to band together to negotiate lower premiums. Let’s give consumers more power and ability to negotiate to get cheaper prices. Let’s end frivolous lawsuits that drive up costs.
Once we deal with those problems, we can see what else we need to do.
The Republicans are taking a sensible line. Let’s take a step-by-step approach that won’t put us into bankruptcy. There is nothing worse than when you renovate a house and then get evicted because you can’t make the payments.
We can avoid that by choosing a more incremental approach to health care.
John Feehery is president of the Feehery Group, a strategic advocacy firm dedicated to helping its clients achieve their legislative and communications objectives in Washington, D.C. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a contributor to The Hill’s “Pundits Blog.”