Friday, March 19, 2010

Guest Commentary: Reforming health care, by any means necessary

Lane Slabaugh, PharmD, MBA
Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research Fellow
Jefferson School of Population Health

The “Slaughter Strategy” being proposed by the Democratic leaders in the House as an alternative route for passing health care reform, (or in the words of House Speaker Pelosi, "kick it through the door”), is balancing on the fringe of illegitimacy. It reminds me of a bossy kid changing the rules in the middle of a game of tag because he is not winning. But the rules of a game of tag are always set on the fly; the rules written in our Constitution were set over 200 years ago. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution clearly outlines, in no uncertain terms, the steps that must be taken to pass a bill into law.

The “Slaughter Strategy”, otherwise known as the “deem-and-pass” rule, will effectively pass the Senate’s health care reform bill through the House without a true vote ever taking place. For a detailed explanation of this complicated process, follow this link.

President Obama is taking as safe a stance on this issue as is possible. In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Obama was repeatedly asked to either defend or denounce the use of the Slaughter Strategy to pass health care reform. The President’s answer never drifted far from gray. “What I can tell you is that the vote that's taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform. And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform.”

Kicking this bill through could lead to an unpredictable loss of ownership down the road. Health care reform will reshape our country and it requires that there be sufficient supporters to help ensure that it is successful. Simply passing a bill will not make health care reform work. If Pelosi et al shove this bill through congress using this unconventional process, then when it comes time for its champions to put the rubber to the road we may be left with a car with only one tire.