Last week, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he shared President Barack Obama's goals of “slowing the growth in costs, enhancing the quality of care delivered, improving the lives of individuals and helping to ensure a strong economic recovery.” The governor's comments came in addition to pro-reform statements by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and former CMS chief Mark McClellan.
It's safe to assume all these gentlemen have their own reasons for backing reform. Frist's family business, HCA, could benefit from an influx of insured patients. Schwarzenegger's state is facing financial disaster and could use some safety net protection for its citizens.
Beyond that, it appears some Republicans are beginning to realize that the “just say no” strategy may be politically self-defeating. As conservative writer David Frum has pointed out, the failure to enact reform would likely result in depressed wages, skyrocketing Medicaid and Medicare costs and pressure for future tax increases, small businesses and individuals being priced out of the insurance market, and uninsured or underinsured people imposing higher costs on hospitals and local governments.
“If we win, we'll trumpet the success as a great triumph for liberty and individualism,'' Frum says. “Really though, it will be a triumph for inertia.”
That's probably not the kind of record you would want to run on when millions are losing coverage in a deep recession.