Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

How reforms are not always synonyms of devastation

Adelina Marini, March 22, 2010

It took the US 1 century to pass a healthcare reform. One hundred years! But they did it in the very beginning of president Barack Obama's mandate, with the support of almost all democrats and a great part of voters. Because they had to. And what is more important - because it was well explained that they had to.

President Obama invested almost all of his efforts and his entire energy to lead a titanic battle for the past 1 year, so as to ensure the passing the bill, which changed a lot but, after all, this night (Bulgarian time, GMT +2), the Congress approved the so called "reconciliation bill". A bill, whose main purpose is to return state's control back to the healthcare system and to "pass health insurance reform for all Americans as a right, not a privilege", Congress speaker Nancy Pelosi said, quoted by the Washington Post.

Currently, the essence of the reform is not that important for us because the healthcare system in the US is much more different than those in Europe, and regarding Bulgaria there's no room for parallel at all. The most important thing is that the president, in the very beginning of his term, took a very important decision, which, as it seems, it would lead either to a second term for the White House, or would leave his name in history as the reformer, who dared change a status quo, established for 100 years.

Barack Obama used his enormous electoral pathos, accumulated during his pre-election campaign and during his election, which was very similar to welcoming a messiah. He poured all of this pathos in the idea of a radical change. Firstly, he introduced a very disputed anti crisis plan which, although with many flaws, dragged American economy back from depression for only 1 year.

Secondly, although still unsuccessful, his administration started changing energy legislation in a way that the laws would pay more attention to saving energy resources, creation of stimuli to save and to climate change.

And last but not least, it was the healthcare reform which, indeed, consumed all of his energy. Let us repeat again - in the first year of his presidential term.

Why is it so important to emphasize that this happened in the first year of his 4-year term? Because the reform will be able to show its pluses and minuses in the next 3 years, thus gaining either the approval of the voters or their disappointment or mistrust.

Obama made efforts every day, providing his audience with arguments in support of the reform, tirelessly, vigorously, with knowledge. He met with his voters as if he was running for president. He never blamed the previous president George W. Bush for the desperate situation in the healthcare system, although he had a lot of reasons to do so.

The US president never withheld his plans. Not even once. He only agreed to a compromise in the name of the reform to be given a chance to start.

But what in fact a reform means? In Bulgaria, as it seems, we got used for the past 20 years to consider reforms as something which someone else wanted from us in order to give us money or help us join NATO or the EU. However, the meaning of reform is different. It is the political and civil consent a system which has proved not to be working or is working ineffectively, to be changed. And the decision to implement such a reform, even risking second term perspectives or even the current term, is called political will.

In Bulgaria a lot of systems appeared to be included in the obligatory list for reforming, starting with healthcare, passing by pensions and ending with education, This is so because for the last 20 years Bulgaria left the socialist planning economy of personal irresponsibility and was forced to make the transition to a market-oriented personal responsibility in healthcare and in pensions and in many other areas.

Unfortunately without a success so far, because for many politicians at home it was more important to defend their personal (partisan or individual) interest or to protect their ratings high. One could wonder why do they need high ratings since they do nothing with them, especially when there is no money or conditions for more money.

The government of Boyko Borisov is not an exception. He was elected by a large part of Bulgarian voters, although with not such a great activity as previous "messiahs" were. He promised a lot and withheld all his ideas just to make several social groups happy or, more precisely - equal in their misery.

This is why we started this article with Barack Obama. Not because there are a lot of similarities between him and the Bulgarian prime minister who started his political career from being a chief policeman and Obama - from being a senator. But because of the similarities in their coming into power - an enormous accumulation of energy and a will for a change in society itself. Americans, obviously, are going to get it. The Bulgarians - not. But, after all, we have only 80 years to wait, if we assume that such a radical reform as in healthcare, needs 100 years.