On Health Care Reform (The Ayes Have It)Featured, The Remedy — By Sarah Thebarge on March 24, 2010 at 10:00 am
In the fall of 2009, Burnside Writers Collective published an article I wrote on health care reform called Who Would Jesus Heal? The piece was a lightning rod, drawing more comments than any other piece in the history of the website.
This online community became a microcosm for the debate that was happening on the national level. You had to look no further than the comments section at the bottom of the page to get a feel for the tenor of the dispute. It was passionate. Okay, vehement. Okay, maybe even angry. Those who opposed it were adamantly against it; those in favor of health care reform were emphatically for it. Even those who weren’t sure where they stood found a way of expressing their unformed opinion in the strongest terms possible.
The national debate raged on through the fall and on into the winter, where it seemed that health care reform was likely to die. Support amongst its advocates was waning, and demonstrations against it were rising. There were angry town hall meetings, loaded opinion polls, Tea Party and Conservative Political Action conferences. Constituents called, faxed, e-mailed, spit on and screamed at their representatives.
The talking heads on cable news shows from Fox News to MSNBC declared health care reform dead. But just when the code had been called and everyone started leaving the room, the bill got a heartbeat. And then another one. And another one.
The majority leaders of the House and Senate took a renewed interest in passing the legislation. President Obama postponed a trip to Indonesia and Australia. He contacted 64 legislators in a day to lobby their support. And then he postponed his trip again. Momentum continued to build. When it became apparent that the language around abortion funding was problematic, President Obama signed an executive order restricting federal funding for abortion.
And then Nancy Pelosi, carrying an oversized gavel, marched into the House chamber on Sunday night with supporters in tow, and they cast the votes that made the idea of reform a reality.
This week I realized with surprise that even in the post-vote world, the debate continues bitterly. Opponents of the bill say that the bill gets it wrong. It’s too expensive. It doesn’t go far enough; or maybe it goes too far. It puts too much control in the hands of the federal government.
The strongest Republican argument I’ve heard is that health care reform was needed, but should have been done in the private sector rather than by the national government. And you know what? I think they may be right. But it’s too late. Because the time to reform health care privately, either by legislation or by appealing to the consciences of insurance CEO’s was twenty years ago. The bottom line is, if health care reform was going to come from a self-policed private sector, it would have been done by now.
The first president to advocate a national health insurance plan was Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican, by the way), almost 100 years ago. There have been 18 presidents since then, 10 of whom were Republicans. From 2000-2006, when insurance premiums skyrocketed 87 per cent, while inflation increased 18 per cent and wages increased 20 per cent, there was a Republican president and a Republican majority in Congress.
Here’s what I have to say to people who are still decrying the passage of the reform bill: You had your chance to reform it, and you didn’t. Tens of millions of Americans are uninsured, and 47,000 of them die each year for lack of insurance.
So the bill may not be perfect. It may go too far, or not far enough. It may have been voted in with unusual (though not unconstitutional) means. But it is fiscally responsible, reducing the federal deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years. And even more importantly, it is sure to save lives.
It may even save yours.