The passage of health care reform last week did not end the debate on the subject, it merely changed it.
The president and his Democratic allies are campaigning to defend their trillion-dollar plan and the Republicans are campaigning to repeal it.
The consequences of the arguments will be both electoral and practical. In the short term, these debates will decide who composes the next Congress. In the long term, the debates will decide what kind of country we are going to be and what our health care system will look like.
The Democrats are banking on convincing the American people that this plan solves the problem and the Republicans are banking on convincing the American people that this plan will only make things worse.
“Convincing” is stressed because we won’t start to see the true effects of the reform for five or 10 years and members of Congress are up for reelection in seven months.
Electoral success as a result of health care will come from how the plan is judged in print and not in practice. The judgment, electorally, will be entirely prospective and not retrospective.
We’ve all been engrossed in the procedural methods of both sides during the last few weeks, but it’s likely those memories will fade for the average voter in November. On the issue of health care, most voters will make their determination on the perceived merits of the proposal and not on how Congress is being run and this is important for the party currently stressing repeal.
In order for the Republican Party to win politically on health care, it needs to shift its strategy. It needs to take the “Moneyball” approach.
Michael Lewis’ best-selling book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, tells the story of baseball’s Oakland Athletics and their unique approach to competing against teams that have the means to spend three-to-four times as much money as they can afford to in a given year.
Published in 2003, Lewis’ Moneyball demonstrates that the Athletics had discovered the conventional wisdom about baseball success was very wrong. They had implemented a system that allowed them to win as many games as teams with higher payrolls because they saw the market for baseball players valued the wrong qualities. They got more out of their money than any other team and it worked to level the playing field.
In other words, the Republicans can win the health care argument if they can play “Moneyball.” The Republicans need to come up with a plan that provides the same benefits at a much lower cost.
The framework is already there, it just needs to be expanded on. Simply repealing the new law would fail politically because it would strip the positive parts of the legislation the American people favor. The Republicans need to find a plan that has the same positives at a lower cost while removing the failures of the legislation.
Their motto should not be repeal, it should be replace.
They need to re-invent health care reform. They need to attack the problem from a different angle. The Oakland Athletics put emphasis on a non-conventional set of statistics that better correlated with victories and did so at a lower cost because baseball regulars undervalued those very same statistics.
It is possible, and very likely considering the way government operates, that we have evaluated the health care problem incorrectly. The Republicans ought to exploit that in order to win in November. They need to play an entirely different game. It’s how the Oakland Athletics were able to win so many games with so little money.
The solution isn’t to defame the current reform; it is to find reform that completely changes the way the American people see health care reform without the other side catching on. Republicans ought to read Lewis’ Moneyball and channel its message. There is always a better way to do something if you’re willing to challenge the conventional wisdom and look for it.
Saving the country from the current reform won’t be easy. Neither was matching the New York Yankees 103 wins in 2002. But the Oakland Athletics did it anyway, and they did it for a third of the cost.