After weeks of wrangling, grandstanding and obstructionist maneuvers, a health care reform bill finally passed the upper house of the Senate at 1 a.m. Monday morning, and a final vote is set for Christmas Eve.
It’s not a great bill, in some areas it’s not even a very good bill, but it’s a bill, and that alone is an achievement.
The strong bill handed to the Senate from the House has been raped of a public option, most of the teeth removed from reform that controlled health insurance companies, and millions awarded in concessions to certain senators to gain their vote.
Particularly galling was Joe Lieberman’s last minute defection announced on Face the Nation, because he was too spineless to face the Democratic caucus and tell them in person he wouldn’t support the expansion of Medicare after he had initially agreed to the plan. Expansion of Medicare was a program he himself touted only one year ago, proving once again Joe Lieberman only supports Joe Lieberman and the numerous health insurance companies that call Connecticut home.
Next came Senator Ben Nelson (Democrat in name only) of Nebraska, holding the bill hostage in the name of abortion, when in reality he has a very long history with health insurance companies also. Ben Nelson’s name is synonymous with health insurance. After a stint as state insurance director of Nebraska, he moved to Central National Insurance of Omaha as an executive vice president and eventually president. He is steeped in health insurance.
These were only two of the most visible roadblocks thrown in front of health care reform. Going up against the obstructionists and GOP in congress as well as health insurance and big PhRMA lobbyists has been, and is, a daunting task. With that in mind, although I am not happy about the current bill, I am in the camp that believes we have to pass a health care reform bill of some sort.
Instead of lamenting what was lost in the current bill we need to recognize all the changes it does make. Vice President Joe Biden expressed it best in the New York Sunday Times with his editorial.
“While this is not perfect, the bill pending in the Senate today is not just good enough – it is very good. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or drop coverage when people get sick. Charging exorbitant premiums based on sex, age or health status will be outlawed. Annual and lifetime caps on benefits will be history. Those who already have insurance will be able to keep it, and will gain peace of mind knowing they won’t be priced out of the market by skyrocketing premiums. And more than 30 million Americans will gain access to affordable health care coverage.
“I share the frustration of other progressives that the Senate bill does not include a public option,” Biden wrote. “But I’ve been around a long time, and I know that in Washington big changes never emerge in perfect form.
“Those in our own party who would scuttle this bill because of what it doesn’t do seem not to appreciate the magnitude of what it has the potential to do.”
For almost a century, presidents and members of Congress have tried and failed to provide universal health benefits to Americans. Back in 1912 former President Theodore Roosevelt campaigned with a promise of national health insurance. We have waited long enough for some type of health care reform. The cost of health care has spiraled; in 2008, one in six dollars was spent on health care, most going into the pockets of health care companies, not health care.
Nearly 100 years of legislative milestones and defeats is long enough. We must pass this first bill so that the obstructionists, the GOP and anyone against health care progress will understand that we can no longer wait for the perfect bill. We need to pass a bill that we can build on and improve, but we must pass a bill to loosen the grip that health insurance companies and big PhRMA have on our country and our lives.
This bill is just a start. But it is a start. It still has to go into committee, where it most assuredly will be changed again, and amendments can be added in the future. Right now we are at zero with health care reform, if we don’t pass this bill we will have less than zero and the health care industry and conservatives will have won – again.
We cannot wait another 100 years. Give the bill a chance. Give our liberal and progressive legislators and our president a chance to crack the door open and let in real health care reform for the first time – ever.
Cheri Cabot, Politics Correspondent
Cheri’s column, “Personal About Politics,” published every week, will reflect on how the life of a 60 year-old, middle class woman is affected by politics, policy and the current state of the nation – a look at the personal aspects of politics. Her column is part of Gather Essentials.
Cheri is a freelance writer, living in Southern California. She has two grown children and is the proud grandmother of three.
You can find all of Cheri’s columns on Personal About Politics at www.personalpolitcs.gather.com, The Obama Watch at theobamawatch.gather.comor her home page here, www.ccabot.gather.com.