Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Reform at Last!

For so many of us in the US hoping for health care reform, the last year has been an emotional roller coaster. At times, it looked encouraging. Some of our legislators were promising that not only would a reform bill pass, but it would also have a strong public insurance option to compete with the private insurers who had been relentlessly raising their rates.

But especially when President Obama seemed so ambivalent about the public option, liberals who felt they were already sold out by the president for taking single-payer (Medicare for All) off the table were left to wonder whether what was left in the bill was even worth passing.

And when Republican Scott Brown (a.k.a.
"Mr. 41") won the late Senator Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, things looked really grim since the Republicans now had enough senators to block any and all Democratic legislation by use of the filibuster. Sure there was an obscure technical way to bypass the filibuster called reconciliation, but President Obama seemed to many of us to be more of a professorial lecturer than somebody who would be willing to fight for a noble cause.

But his State of the Union speech signaled a change in strategy. Instead of staying in the background and letting Congress fight it out, the president finally took ownership of health care reform. When he finally figured out that the health insurance industry was not part of the solution but indeed the problem, he finally started calling them out on their abusive practices.

Most important of all, when he traveled around the country to rally people around health reform, he finally stressed the human cost our present policies were causing by including real-life stories of individuals who needlessly suffered through illness and financial catastrophe. Better late than never, but I think he should have stressed the moral imperative of health care reform from the beginning!

While the Democrats were stressing the human needs that had to be addressed, the Republicans persisted in talking about little more than the dollars and cents to pay for it, ignoring the human side of the problem.

Now that the bill has been signed, instead of helping to make the bill they disagreed with work as well as possible now that it is a law, the Republicans are now talking about doing what they can to repeal it — which is especially ludicrous with the Democrats now in control of Congress and the White House.

The Republican rhetoric about health care reform being socialized medicine doesn’t look like it’s going to go away any time soon. After all, it’s in their DNA going back to
Ronald Reagan Speaking Out Against Socialized Medicine back in 1961 to try and head off a proposed plan to provide seniors with health insurance that we now know as Medicare.

In fairness, nobody knows for sure exactly how well this newly signed law is going to work. Unlike simpler plans such as expanding Medicare to all US citizens, this is a hodgepodge of different plans pieced together as a result of the legislative process requiring many compromises to get enough legislators to vote for it. The part I most worry about is that the ban against rejecting adults for coverage due to pre-existing conditions doesn’t go into effect until 2014. In the meantime, these people will have to resort to joining high-risk pools to get insurance which may or may not be affordable for those who most need it.

But if reform does work, the non-stop hysteria by those opposing health care reform over the last year is going to deeply affect their credibility. Medicare was controversial when it was first enacted. Today, only those on the fringe right would ever advocate taking it away from our seniors.

Conservative commentator and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, had this to say on the day the health care bill was passed in his controversial blog posting

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles.
This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

I can’t think of anybody more deserving!

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