Healthcare Is Not A Popularity Contest

The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt cut to the public option core in yesterday’s Shirking Cost Control.  On the issue of health care reform he asserts, “The ‘public option’ is dangerous not for what it might do but for what it allows the politicians not to do.”  

According to Hiatt, politicians are attempting to avoid making “unpalatable” political decisions regarding special interests and industry cost-cutting by enacting a solution without proven – and for quite some time, provable – efficacy and cost-saving ability.  Our politicians, he argues, are shirking the real responsibility incumbent to the reform discussion – asking tough questions and reaching bipartisan consensus – and are instead opting to ride the wave of public option popularity (at least among the majority Democrats).

I have my own thoughts on health care reform, but they are beside the point; Hiatt speaks to a reality that plagues political and business leaders alike beyond a single issues such as health care. When faced with difficult issues, leaders often opt to promote popular and self-protecting solutions instead of those that risk popularity in the interest of true, consensus-driven solutions.

This is particularly true in times of crisis.  We only need to look at leaders at firms like AIG, Lehman Brothers, and General Motors for examples of those who made easy, self-serving, and short-term decisions that helped them weather a single storm and make short-term profits, but eventually led to their implosion.

There is no doubt we face a crisis on health care, and that reality no doubt weighs heavily on our politicians as they attempt to frame a solution.  However, it is imperative that they not hide behind potential solutions as a means of shirking the responsibility to find real ones.