Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Thoughts On Health Care Reform

Since the evening of "Et tu, Lieberman?" I've been grappling with my thoughts and feelings on the current Senate debacle that is the health care bill debate. Because the two have to be dealt with separately.

Emotionally, I want Holy Joe's head on a plate. I want President Obama to shout from the rooftops that Traitor Joe will not live to see another day as chairman of any Democratic party committee. I want Harry Reid to tell Lieberman that he can forget about seeing any legislation with his name on it come to the floor of the Senate. I want every Democratic Senator to call Lieberman out on the Senate floor and expose his hypocrisy so it can live in perpetuity in the Congressional record.

Emotionally, I'm upset at the party caving to satisfy a handful of Senators with their own agenda. Courting Republicans like Snowe was a ridiculous idea from the start. If it were a matter of one vote, I could understand it to a point. But if it was to feign bipartisanship, it was a useless task. All that should have been thrown out the window when they realized they also had to content with Mary Landrieu(LA), Blanche Lincoln(AK) and Ben Nelson(NE) besides The Lieberdouche. If they couldn't get their own party's ducks in a row, what was the point of Snowe in the first place?

Emotionally, I'm truly disappointed at the lack of arm twisting by the President. I know that's not his style and I'm trying to deal with that considering my constant bitching about another certain leader of the free world in the not too far distant past and his bullying ways when he was using his powers for evil instead of good.

But emotion and ideology are intertwined and ideology is not the friend of politics or pragmatism. This is where we need to take a hard look at the bill that we do have instead of the one we wish we had. The bill that ends the insurance conglomorate's practice of rescission. The bill that doesn't allow exclusion due to a pre-existing condtion. The bill that extends coverage and includes subsidies to those that can't afford health care. The bill that makes the insurance companies spend 90% of premiums accrued on health care, not advertising. The bill that would make possible millions who currently don't have insurance and therefore not got to the doctor a chance at preventative care before it's too late.

That's a lot to simply dismiss as "not good enough." There are progressives who have voiced their harsh opposition for legitimate reasons. And that's their job. None of them however, are elected officials. FDL's Jane Hamsher opposes the bill and agrees with Howard Dean who called it "essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate." But it's easy for progressives to stick to their guns, to throw their principles in your face when there's no downside to their stance. It's easy for Howard Dean's idealogy to dictate what he says when he's not in public office. I wonder what his reaction would be if he were still head of the DNC?  Dean can say what he wants now when there is no accountability, even when his record shows otherwise. The Senate bill is similar to Dean's plan when he ran for President in 2004, which didn't have a public option or a Medicare buy-in either.

What do you say to people who currently can't get health insurance because of restrictions that this bill would now make illegal? "Sorry, wait til next time?" Because if history is any indicator, the next time will be somewhere in 2025 if this bill were killed. There is no do over. Not when the process has come this far, farther than at any other time the government has broached the subject of health care reform.

What do you say to the nearly 45,000 people that die every year because they don't have coverage and therefore put off the expensive proposition of a checkup? "Wait it out, maybe this isn't your year"?

I can't do that. It probably would be easy for me to say that, considering I have good health care coverage through my employer, but if the shoe were on the other foot, I don't think I'd like it so much if someone with health insurance was denying my chance at coverage because of their principles.

We need to take a step back, take a breath and look at what this bill provides instead of what it doesn't, and then ask ourselves if it really is "worse than nothing" knowing that nothing is the status quo. Knowing that nothing is unsustainable, and asking ourselves if "worse then nothing" is just hyperbole.

Although I'm incredibly disappointed, at this point I have to let the process play itself out. Yes, they could have done better initially, but this is by no means over as elected progressives are pushing back and once the Senate bill is done with it still has to be merged with the House bill in conference.

Perhaps a public option can be approached through an amendment in a future spending bill. Perhaps over time, Congress can improve loopholes and make health care stronger, just like Medicare was improved and Social Security was improved over time. But I don't know how I could sleep at night advocating the bill be scrapped when it doesn't affect me as severely as those who aren't covered.

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