It’s been a rocky ride this year, getting heath care bills passed in the House and the Senate. It’s been just over a month since the Senate passed its bill in a dramatic Christmas Eve vote (and much longer since the House passed its version), but the fate of health care reform still appears as uncertain as ever. In particular, a surprising political setback in Massachusetts has made the already difficult Senate an almost impossibly hostile environment for reform.
The most obvious solution is for the House to pass the Senate bill without hesitation; however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already said this is unlikely to happen. On the positive side, it looks like Democrats in the House and Senate may be close to brokering a deal allowing reform to pass. But, if this fails–and maybe even instead of pursuing this strategy–the House should do its best to pass the Senate bill.
So, what’s the hold up? Well, liberal Democrats are understandably reluctant to support the highly watered-down Senate bill. But, the House version isn’t all that different. There’s also some weird resistance to some largely irrelevant abortion provisions, but that should really be a non-issue.
Here’s the deal. There’s not going to be a public option, at least not for now. And, please trust me that it pains me greatly to say this, as I have been a major proponent of the public option and single-payer/universal health care systems in general. But, that’s the political reality, and there’s no getting around it. The kind of sweeping health care reform that many of us envisioned for this year hasn’t materialized, but that doesn’t mean that we should scrap the whole thing now. There’s still plenty to like in the Senate health care bill.
There are a variety of problems inherent in America’s market-based health care system. A true solution will require a comprehensive overhaul, but the Senate bill at least addresses some of the most pressing ones. There are three provisions in particular that even on their own would be worth investing a major effort in passing. Firstly, the bill prevents insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting medical conditions. This common industry practice has caused untold strife for so many, and this provision would be a major step forward. Secondly, the bill eliminates lifetime limits on insurance coverage–another bane for people with chronic medical conditions. And, finally, the bill enacts various subsidies and tax breaks to help individuals afford coverage–a benefit that speaks for itself. For more, check out analyses here, here, here, and here.
It’s been somewhat painful watching the political process at work this year as health care reform worked its way through Congress. We saw the Democrats make compromise after compromise, and the Republicans still refused to offer any support–instead stubbornly opposing even the most meager reforms. But, if you thought this was tough, it’s likely to only be worse in the near future. The political climate this year–as bad as it’s been–was unusually favorable. Still, we saw how badly health care industry lobbying money could influence the course of the debate. And, you thought that was bad? Last week’s unusual and disturbing Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC has the potential to make these the good old days, as destructive corporate influence in politics will only increase.
In short, now is the time for health care reform. Not next year, not next month, not even tomorrow. Today. Now. So, please, contact your Representative in Congress and tell him or her that you want him/her to commit to passing the Senate health care bill in the house–and then to convincing his/her peers to do the same.
Click here to look up your member of Congress. You can then either write a message using that site, or Google your Representative’s contact info and then call or email to make your voice heard. The Supreme Court may have opened the floodgates for unfettered corporate influence in politics, but hopefully we can show that good old fashioned democracy still has a role to play.