I Don’t Get Health Care Reform—and Neither Do You   

Jul 22, 09 | 9:09 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Can you explain health care reform to me? No, you can’t. You don’t understand it either.

This is partly because there is the concept of reform, but there is no fixed proposal for what exactly this reform is or how precisely these reform goals—to the extent that there are fixed goals—will be accomplished. There are just arguments over the nature and methods of reform.

And it is partly because health care reform, in whatever shape it ultimately assumes, will be reduced (or, as it were, expanded) to a set of procedures and regulations and exceptions not so dissimilar form the federal tax code.

So how is it possible to have an opinion—for so many people to have such heated opinions—about something that they cannot possibly understand?

The answer is that most of us don’t have opinions. The only people who really have opinions are people being paid to have opinions—for or against. To the extent that people who are not being paid to have opinions have an opinion, these are largely opinions not about health care reform, but about other people’s opinions about health care reform. We’ve been propagandized, in other words.

Or, there are people who have opinions not about health care reform, but about the principle of health care reform—i.e. it is necessary egalitarianism, or horrifying socialism—regardless of the actual operation of whatever the new health care system turns out to be.

Or, the real opinion people have, which they are too ashamed to admit, is that health care reform is just too complicated. They may be afraid of it because who wouldn’t be afraid of something that promises so much change with so much explanation? Or they’re willing to accept it because accepting it is easier than trying to understand it.

There’s an amount of fairly terrible fatalism to this discussion. I have to reject it because it is too complicated. Or, I have to go along with it because it is too complicated.

The most significant piece of social legislation in several generations is under extensive national debate and virtually nobody knows what they are talking about. Likely, it will be passed, or it will be defeated, with no one knowing what in hell it’s about.

The president is going on television tonight and he is going to try to make the case for health care reform.

We ought to pay attention, not just to learn something, but to see if he understands it.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at

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