Healthcare Is an Ugly Word

Feb 10, 10 | 7:57 AM   byMichael Wolff
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One of the unfortunate things about the sudden derailing of the healthcare bill—in addition to the 30 million people who still can’t get health insurance—is that we have to continue to talk about the healthcare bill, one of the most opaque and boring subjects in American politics.

This is undoubtedly the fault of the Democrats. Almost all of them have been trained as public sector bureaucrats, instead of keep-it-simple-stupid executives and marketers (like many Republicans). Hence, they gum up almost everything they touch. They are process rather than product people, deal makers rather than salesmen.

God knows, healthcare needed a salesman.

This is what the Republicans have going for them: that the healthcare bill seems like so much obfuscation. And if something seems like obfuscation, then it’s probably a scam, is what I think many people have concluded. Even the most deliberate of people seem to be taking the view that someone should be held accountable for having created a piece of legislation—theoretically among the most important reforms of the last many years—which no one understands.

Still, however painful this might continue to be, it’s not over yet.

Next week’s healthcare summit, convened by the White House as a way to confront Republican resistance, is a second chance.

A boycott by the Republicans is one rescue measure, the Democrats hope: There could be a mighty backlash if it’s clear that the Republicans will oppose anything. The Republicans will be the grinches they seemed to be when Clinton triangulated them into not passing a budget and the government began to close down (as it happened, letting Monica Lewinsky into the Oval Office).

But probably they won’t boycott (they’re not that dumb). So this will be a curious showdown between one side which likes to make things as complicated as possible and the other side that likes to reduce everything to childlike concepts.

The Democrats will seem like academics, engaging in the most abstract and deadening policy talk; the Republicans will seem like carnival barkers, with their full-throttle repetitions of over-blown claims and slogans.

The Democrats will try to make the Republicans talk policy and therefore become complicit in the complexities of healthcare legislation. The Republicans will try to catch the Democrats obfuscating the GOP’s simple solutions.

So who will be the contrast gainer?

We won’t know more about the healthcare bill. But we might come closer to clarifying what the different sides mean when they say healthcare bill—before it dies its likely death. This is about semiotics, as much as politics, or health.

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 You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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