Thursday, September 10, 2009
Are We Done Being Scared of Healthcare Reform Yet?
It all came down to a speech.
In forty-five minutes, President Obama made a clear and logical case for healthcare reform. I was sold on the new plan when the president said that this effort would cost $900 billion - less than the war in Iraq - and would be paid for with money that's already being spent on a flawed system. In short, everyone gets basic healthcare and then additional care, with controls to ensure that rates remain competitive and citizens don't go broke to pay for medical care. No death panels, no dipping into medicare or social security to pay for it, no adding to our deficit, no coverage for illegal immigrants (I have a problem with that last part but I'll talk about that in another post).
Twice he cited the efforts of his former opponent and senate colleague John McCain in the area of healthcare reform; he invoked the late Ted Kennedy, asking us all to look beyond party lines and address a fundamental flaw in our nation's character that allows our least fortunate citizens to die of preventable or treatable illnesses because they can't afford care. The president asked us to stop the same quibbling that stalled social security during the Roosevelt administration and medicare in the 60s. We're on the cusp of much-needed and rather painless change - why, he asked without asking, are we addressing rumors and lies when we have the resources to fix a problem that can eventually save us money? If the dying people angle doesn't move you how does a $4 trillion reduction to our deficit sound?
To some people, specifically the long-faced, immovable republican block who scowled throughout most of the president's address, healthcare reform smacks of socialism. To those people, I would say that healthcare is as much of a national security issue as the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. And it's an issue that does require government oversight - when the markets imploded last year (a year to the day, actually) it was the government that eventually had to sweep in with a bail-out that has spiraled from an initial $700 billion loan to something in the trillions. Why, then, can't we safeguard the idea that everyone deserves access to basic medical care and that insurance companies should compete for consumers' business?
The democrats have a small window of time to push this bill through the House and on to the Senate. Next year is an election year and there are some on-the-fence dems who fear losing the support of ther conservative base. The White House needs to help these lawmakers make the case to their constituents that this plan is what's best for them and the country. This could very well be the issue that shakes up the balance of power in both houses of government, as New York magazine's Michael Tomasky pointed out this week. I doubt that will happen, I remain optimistic about the future of this plan.