First Sen. Chuck Schumer, now Sen. Tom Harkin. This week the outgoing Iowa Democrat became the second major figure to speak forcefully about the ACA’s failure after Schumer told the press that Democrats should have passed more pressing fixes to the economy before tackling health care. Schumer’s earlier remarks were notable because of the position he occupies in the Senate minority hierarchy, but Harkin played a role in drafting the law. Unlike Schumer, he has problems with the law itself, not just the timing of its passage, according to WaPo:
“We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified health care, made it more efficient and made it less costly, and we didn’t do it,” Harkin reportedly told The Hill in a piece published Wednesday. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.”He added: “What we did is we muddle[d] through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively.”
Harkin goes on to say that the Democrats should have tried to pass single payer from the start instead of creating the Affordable Care Act. This is a better note to strike in the ongoing midterm post-mortem. Unlike Schumer, Harkin realizes that reforming the American health care system is a real priority, and that the ACA just did not get the job done. Instead of lowering costs it dumped more people into a dysfunctional system. He’s right too that single-payer would in many ways be better than the system we currently have, which is a kind of “worst of all worlds” situation in which health care is highly regulated but not efficient or cost-effective.Ultimately he is wrong that America needs a single-payer system—such systems cannot guarantee the kind of innovation we need to create a sustainable medical industry. And these kind of remarks will probably inspire a fresh set of pieces promoting the single-payer pivot. Nevertheless, his remarks represent a smarter kind of soul-searching than that displayed by Schumer. We don’t need a retreat from health care policy; we need better health care policy.