Best to judge health reform over long haul


Perhaps the most remarkable thing after Sunday night’s passage of health care reform was the wildly — and we mean wildly — differing views of what will now result.

Republicans were predicting all forms of disaster for the country and for Democrats. Plagues. Locusts. The works.

The conservative Washington Times agreed that the new law is historic, “but so was the Black Plague,” it said in an editorial Monday, predicting “political extinction in November” for the Democrats.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, hailed passage as a victory for common people over insurance companies and called it “one of the biggest deficit reduction measures in history.”

That’s IF Congress can find the political will to do something it has never done before — cut Medicare spending.

Maybe there are a few billion dollars to be had by introducing new technology, such as computerized record keeping.  And there may be another billion or two to be saved by rooting out waste and fraud.

But where will the rest come from? Doctors? Unlikely.

Hospitals? If so, what will keep them from simply shifting those cuts to people with private insurance, as they do now?

Drug companies? Hah! There’s a reason “Big Pharm” supported this plan — it does nothing to curb their unseemly profits.

So, Americans are left with two starkly different visions of the future. To Democrats, we will all be healthier, happier and more secure.

To Republicans, we will be bankrupt, left in long lines waiting for care or, worse, death panels.

For our part, we are revisiting today the writings of Edward Lorenz, the father of chaos theory, which was popularized by the movie Jurassic Park.

In the movie, you may recall character Ian Malcolm talking about how a butterfly flapping its wings on one continent can affect weather systems days later and thousands of miles away.

Chaos theory holds that dynamic systems are highly sensitive to initial conditions.

Meaning, in this case, that health care reform is so big and complex, and touches so many pieces of our national lives, that it is impossible to predict with certainty what will now happen. Or how much it will cost.

There are so many players and pieces that the outcome of this game won’t be fully known for years. There are some provisions that don’t even take effect until 2018.

In response to some provisions, hospitals will do one thing. In response to that, insurers will do another. Because of that, employers will do something else.  And consumers — God only knows what they will do.

But all of these responses will play out over a period of years. And that’s not even counting eventual efforts by Republicans to roll back and change some provisions.

In Jurassic Park, things didn’t turn out so well. The dinosaurs, created with such benign intentions, had minds of their own and ending up eating almost everyone.

Ouch. Let’s hope health care reform goes better.

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