Who'll Bell the Cat?

Once upon a time all the mice met together to discuss how to protect themselves from the cat. One mouse got up and said, "I have a plan which will ensure our safety. We should fasten a bell round the neck of our enemy the cat, which will by its tinkling warn us of her approach." This proposal was warmly applauded until  an old mouse asked, "I agree this is an admirable plan. But which one of us is going to bell the cat?"  Aesop's fable
As hard as it is to bring the news of a death, it's much tougher to face the family and tell them that everything that can be done has been done, and there's no use in continued treatment. (In today's climate of unbridled litigation, these conversations can also be fraught with peril.) No one wants to hear the words "It's time to stop." I've watched doctors gather in the hall outside the patient's room. All accept that further treatment is hopeless. Yet even as they all agree that the family needs to be told of the dire situation, a silent question hangs in the air:  Who'll bell the cat?

President Obama's comprehensive health care reform lies in the Congress on life support. Any resemblance to the reforms that the President
spoke of last February in his first speech to a joint session of Congress is long gone. It is true that early in his administration the President caught a couple of bad breaks. Ted Kennedy, who according to conventional wisdom was crucial to the Senate passage of any healthcare bill, was diagnosed with brain cancer. And Obama's pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, former Senator Tom Daschle, had to be withdrawn from consideration when his numerous tax improprieties came to light.

The loss of Senator Daschle was especially hard, because he alone in the Obama Administration had an actual plan for healthcare reform. He also had all the connections necessary on Capitol Hill to guarantee speedy passage of the massive legislation. Unfortunately, it appeared that once the President lost Mr. Daschle, he had no Plan B. So he checked healthcare reform into the Congressional intensive care unit and within weeks a fairly healthy system with a couple of treatable problems appeared moribund.

Representative Henry Waxman's committee was the first to "treat" healthcare reform.  His care plan,
HR 3200, was actually made public (against the advice of Senator Daschle, who advocated passing a vague bill very quickly, and working out the details later).  Americans, who favor the status quo over the Democrats' healthcare reform plans, were stunned at what was contained in the thousand page bill. 

Instead of focusing on the areas that everyone agrees need treatment (e.g, portability of health insurance, tort reform) Mr. Waxman's proposal would eventually scrap our free market system for government-run healthcare. The adverse reactions to  HR 3200 were Tea Parties, health care protests, plummeting polls and raucous town hall meetings where previously politically uninvolved constituents challenged members of Congress. 

Obviously, the healthcare reform treatment plan of the House of Representatives wasn't working. It was time to turf (transfer) the problem over to the Senate and a new roster of practitioners, Senator Max Baucus and the Finance Committee. Senator Baucus launched his
plan in September to Bronx cheers from everyone, even the Democrats

Reading the high points -- huge cuts in Medicare, penalties for those who choose to be uninsured, and a price tag of nearly 900 billion dollars, among others -- it's easy to see why there is such a visceral dislike of this plan. The Finance Committee has been continuing its intensive treatment of health reform by debating more than 500 amendments to the bill. So far, the legislation remains on the critical list, kept alive only by the fact that Democrats have a super-majority in the Senate.

It's time now for a care conference for comprehensive health care reform. The Democrat leadership in America needs to meet in the metaphorical hallway and honestly assess the prognosis and effects of continuing Obama's reform legislation. As I see it, not only is health care reform at death's door, the process itself has the potential to inflict grave harm on the rest of  the Democrats' agenda, the party and even the country. 

It's not hard to envision Democrat politicians and activists becoming alarmed at the damage being done by this President's obsession with passing comprehensive healthcare reform. It's time for Democrats to face reality. Someone has got to tell Obama: "It's time to stop." And the unspoken question hangs in the air:

Who'll bell the cat?

This is not the first time in our history that a brave member of a President's own party had to speak the truth to power. In August, 1974,
Barry Goldwater informed Richard Nixon that the President had lost the support of Congress. In 1994, when President Clinton faced his own battle with comprehensive health care reform Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said:

"anyone who thinks (the Clinton plan) can work in the real world as presently written isn't living in it."

Is there anyone of enough stature and bravery in the Democrat party who can bell the cat, who can deliver the bad news to Obama that it's time to stop, that the country has wasted enough time and money on this? I don't know. It takes tremendous courage to tell a "historic" President what he doesn't want to hear. In times past America had statesmen. Now we only have politicians. And politicians are hardly ever known for belling cats. .

Carol Peracchio is a registered nurse.