Rube Goldberg Already Lives Here

by Jonathan Cohn | July 15, 2009

House Republicans today released a chart depicting what health care in America would look like if the House Democrats get their way. It's confusing, if colorful--full of boxes, lines, and all sorts of hard-to-say acronyms. Which, of course, is the point. 

If all of this sounds familiar, that's because it is. The Republicans did the exact same thing in 1994, when President Bill Clinton unveiled his reform plan. That chart was, to be clear, relatively accurate. The Clinton plan really was very complicated. Just like the new plans moving through Congress.

But these charts--and, more important, the Republicans who use them as propoganda--tend to ignore one inconvenient fact: American health care is already complex. Ridiculously complex. Thanks to decades of haphazard, disorganized growth, it's evolved into a mind-numbing web of institutions, agencies, businesses, and individual actors. And while that may be self-evident to anybody who's ever had to deal with, say, a billing dispute between an insurer and hospital, it's easy to lose sight of that when the discussion is all about what reform might do--rather than what health care would be like without it.

So just to make sure that fact isn't lost, we've developed our own chart--a chart of American health care as it is today, in all of its convoluted glory. It appears below; click for a larger version. 

(Note: Thanks to our friends at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, who graciously helped us check the factual information, although they are not in any way reponsible for the content.)

--Jonathan Cohn

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