Sunday, February 28, 2010

We Need To Pass Health Care Reform Now!

OK, I admit it. I don’t have a life. How else can I explain my watching almost all of the 7 hour Health Care Summit last Thursday led by President Obama and attended by Democratic and Republican legislators?

It’s not that I expected all that much. But it was at least worthwhile to see what would happen if the sides engage each other across the table. All too often, we see legislators on both sides share their viewpoints on media outlets that are friendly to their viewpoints. For example, the Democrats appear on liberal friendly MSNBC while the Republicans appear on conservative friendly Fox News.

But to nobody’s surprise, the two sides had irreconcilable differences. The Democrats were worried about insuring as many of the 45 million uninsured as possible. The Republicans were worried about how much covering these additional people would cost.

The Democrats asked whether there was any compromise that would enable President Obama’s proposed reforms to pass with some bipartisan support. The Republicans wanted the process started over from scratch. It is widely accepted in Congress that the more a bill can be delayed, the more likely it is to die. So isn't starting all over just another way to kill health care reform?

Even conservative NYT columnist Ross Douthat had this to say about the Republicans in his op-ed piece
Six Hours of Hot Air!

(President Obama’s) Republican opponents, meanwhile, were out to disprove the notion that they have no ideas on health care reform. Not so, America, not so! They have two ideas, malpractice reform and interstate purchasing, which they clung to all day like Al Gore with his lockbox. Also, they had several piled-high copies of the lengthy Senate health care bill, and a slogan to go with them: “Let’s start over from a clean sheet of paper.” What would end up on that paper? Why, malpractice reform and interstate purchasing, of course!
But one thing more than anything else signaled that there was no way to bridge the partisan gap. While the Democratic proposal would insure about 30 million of the 45 million uninsured, the Republican version would insure only about 3 million of them! Many bills have been passed by legislators reaching across the aisle and working for a common goal. For example, if both the Democrats and Republicans really wanted to find a way to insure 30 million Americans, there would be hope of getting something accomplished. But when one side wants to insure 30 million and the other side only wants to insure 3 million, there is no common goal to work for which makes compromise just about impossible.

So the only possible way forward for the Democrats is to go it alone and pass legislation through the Senate by using reconciliation which only requires a simple majority instead of 60 to bypass a Republican filibuster. While the Republicans see this issue mainly in terms of dollars and cents, pro-reform people see this as a moral imperative to alleviate the needless suffering and dying by those who do not have health insurance. For each day we delay, more people suffer and die needlessly. We need to think about this when deciding whether to pass health care reform now or just delay it endlessly!

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