Monday, March 22, 2010

Health care bill passes

Impressive, Madam Speaker.  Impressive.

As a liberal/progressive, there are many aspects of the health care legislation that was passed yesterday by the US House of Representatives that I find less than optimal.

Mostly, I am fuming that the least expensive and most obvious health care solution, Medicare for all, was never even debated, was in fact, taken "off the table" before the debate had even begun.  In this corporate-enslaved nation, though, I suppose it was idle fantasy to imagine that our government would have the courage to destroy the leeching, parasitic health insurance industry.  In fact, the new legislation might very well make that parasite even stronger.

Secondly,  I find it difficult to avoid the feeling that the leaders of the Democratic party continue to discount my concerns and desires regarding public policy.  We (liberals/progressives) are being taken for granted, yet again.  (But, let's see if Representative Kucinich was able to win anything in exchange for his vote.)

Regardless, passage of the health care bill clearly illuminates some heretofore opaque political realities.
  • President Obama and (most especially) Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Majority Whip Clyburn showed extraordinary poise and acumen in their whipping operation.  This is power house politics.  When the vote came down, not only had the leadership pushed the progressive wing of the party (exemplified by Representative Dennis Kucinich) into line, but they corralled the so-called "pro-life" Democrats, led by Representative Bart Stupak.  An impressive political achievement.

  • The Republicans, as evidenced by their hangdog expressions, and their frantic, shrill protestations, have again been defeated.  They did what they could last summer to rally their redneck base against health care reform.  And now, they vow that they will hang this vote around the necks of vulnerable Democrats in the mid-term election.  That tactic will probably work in some "swing" districts, where Democrats were elected in 2008, not so much out of support for Democratic values, but more out of sheer loathing for the Republican era of Junior Bush.  But the Republicans are today, suffering the humiliation of being exposed as largely impotent. 

  • Tea-bag pseudo-patriots have exposed themselves as radical, often racist, and most certainly cruel.  Their antics (shouting "N*gger!" at Representative John Lewis outside the Capital building, mocking a man with Parkinson's Disease, using big words that they obviously don't understand) have served only to steel support for the bill within Congress. 
Polls taken just before the vote indicate that the American public was more or less evenly divided about the bill.  It seems that the President and Speaker Pelosi are confident that, as the bill is implemented, the electorate will become more enamored of it.  Certainly, most people will have no complaint about these provisions in the legislation*:
  • Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
  • Lower seniors' prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;
  • Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
  • Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
  • Require plans to cover an enrollee's dependent children until age 26;
  • Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
  • Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
  • Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.
*[As enumerated by Representative John B. Larson.]

Republicans, I predict, will attack the legislation as achieving nothing on cost control.  But, if the legislation actually does contain costs, as the Democrats say it will, the public will come around.  If not --well, then the Democrats deserve to lose.

This debate has gone on for just over a year, and it has been ugly and rancorous.  And the resulting legislation leaves a lot to be desired.  But there is one aspect of this process that I find deliciously and completely satisfactory:  The hysterical right-wing loses.  The racists lose.  The tea-baggers lose.

There is virtue in that, if nothing else. 

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


Heather Ann said...

I agree with Michael Moore when he said this is two steps forward and one step back. It's definitely not everything we wanted, or even most of what we wanted. It is a little bit of what we wanted and something is so much better than nothing!

Dan Binmore said...

Fewer people ill die, that's a good thing. But it is say to say that probably the most important thing about passing the bill was that something was passed. It means that it is possible to pass health care legislation, and every health care legislation that passes in the future will head in the direction of a single payer system. We won't have to wait fifteen years for the next movement in the direction of something that costs half as much and covers everyone.

I feel sad that anybody thinks about winners and losers in this regard, like a sports team, rather than doing what is sensible.

The USA spends about the same amount per capita in health care as Costa Ricans earn per capita, and Costa Rica has universal health care and a longer life expectancy.