So now we’re on the road to health care reform. At the very least, we’re on the map.
Passing this legislation was nothing short of miraculous. The polarized political climate nearly killed it, and even many on the left seemed to want it to die in its current form. Ultimately, deem-and-pass may have saved it and certainly made it less prone to further watering-down.
I do have my quibbles with the bill, mainly that it’s without single-payer universal care or a public option. These are the best two ideas for reforming health care, both in cost and societal obligation, but they are also the most politically loaded. True to what critics say, the health insurance mandate forces everyone to buy into private insurance companies. And even though it’s almost completely forgotten that the poorest Americans and small businesses can get waivers for the cost, it’s still a sore point for most. It’s just too bad that single-payer is such a poisonous concept that a mandate had to be considered in the first place. Even so, the point of the mandate is to create the largest risk pool possible, which in theory drives costs down for everyone. So it isn’t a total wash. Nor do I think it is a total giveaway to the insurance companies and Big Pharma, because while they’re getting more business, it isn’t necessarily more profitable business. There’s a reason they fought this tooth-and-nail, despite conventional wisdom that the Obama administration appeased them.
The real effect of this bill is that its policies will pave the way toward a more widespread acceptance of the need for a public option and/or universal health care. Many critics of the legislation, the ones who object because they’ve been conditioned to split hairs over spending (at least post-2009), will find it to benefit them in the future. And when it comes through in the clutch for them, it will seem less like a Marxist nightmare than an essential part of being a secure citizen. Remember, these same conservatives were dead set against Medicare and Social Security back when those programs were pipe dreams. But just try putting your government hands on their Medicare, and you’ll see just how rugged and individualistic Americans truly are.
What I don’t appreciate is the opposition against the bill, which is growing exponentially juvenile by the minute. Yesterday, I spent much of my free time scouring the comments sections of various online newspapers and message boards, as well as having numerous conversations with friends and acquaintances in person and online. Comments ranged from lucid to ridiculous. Diplomatically speaking.
Whenever I hear anyone use the terms “Obamacare,” “BO,” “communist,” “Marxist,” “fascist” or any of the other common epithets so loosely applied these days, I immediately know what to expect and how fast to dismiss it. And yet, educated adults bandy these words about as if they’re universally accepted currency and not the terms of specific philosophies and/or disrespect that they are.
More intelligent and thoughtful critics speak of long lines, extended waits and an apathetic bureaucracy, as if that isn’t exactly the reality for most as it stands now. At least those are thoughtful points and not like these common criticisms:
“How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for you?/This is what you get for voting for Obama/This is going to lead to an electoral bloodbath in November.” I could say that I enjoy watching Republicans, libertarians and teabaggers self-destruct in their own foam over this bill’s passage. But, really, I don’t. For me, this isn’t about the Democrats scoring a political victory and/or rubbing it in the faces of the snarling GOP. I believe in health care reform. I want it. And while this bill is far from perfect, it’s a tremendous leap in the right direction (right as in correct, not right as in wrong). It’s going to help everyone, not just those in favor of it; that’s why I care about its success. On the other hand, I’ve heard plenty of comments, both from politicians and from friends, suggesting that they want it to fail so that the Democrats run scared. That’s pathetic. I can’t ever recall opposing a Bush policy for the purpose of seeing him squirm; it’s because I don’t like elective war or regressive tax cuts that would (and did) destabilize the economy.
Also, I don’t care if this leads to fewer Democratic seats in November. You aren’t going to scare me with that for three reasons: 1) that’s a historic midterm trend; 2) health care reform is worth the risk; and 3) I’m not all that sure that said bloodbath is a given at this point.
Again, it’s about doing the right thing. And that is the change I voted for.
“Free America died today.” This is a good one. It’s a fascinating mind-set that overlooks all of the very real rollbacks in personal freedom over the past decade, such as the Patriot Act, and decides that helping insure millions of Americans with no other lifeline is the ultimate affront to the Constitution. Never mind that pretty much anyone can point out which specific amendments the Patriot Act violates, while no one has yet given a cogent argument as to what part of the document health care reform dishonors. It seems to me that health care reform promotes the general welfare, which is in the Preamble. But I know how many feel about welfare.
Today’s conservatives have a twisted definition of “freedom” anyway. Whereas they were just fine with trading basic civil liberties for security (or at least the illusion of it) in the Bush years, suddenly freedom is sacred. And what freedoms of ours are under fire? Why, the right to go bankrupt over a hospital visit! The right to not have any health insurance if you don’t want it (those who can’t afford it, by definition, don’t want it because if they did, they’d try harder to get richer). The right to have the free, private market to be your one-stop shop for every service you ever need. Sick? Let’s cross some state lines! How dare anyone tread on those priceless rights!
“Obama and the Democrats want nothing less than total takeover, so that the people of America are fully dependent on the government for all their needs.” As far as complete government takeovers go, requiring health insurance through private insurance companies and having no public option is a pretty lame start.
Anyway, why would this be a laudable goal, even if it was what Democrats wanted? What’s the gain? And if you say power, well, I’d love to hear how that’s anything but Republican projection. After all, color-coded terrorist alert systems, being told to “watch what you say” and repeatedly making the case that we need more government surveillance absolutely everywhere is a form of government control in itself. A very real and tangible one proposed by a president revered by many of the health care critics.
Conservative pundits often chastise Democrats for what they see as pandering for votes with their social programs. The idea that such programs actually help people rarely seems to enter the discussion. Nor does the idiocy of complaining that people vote for those who pledge to help them. Duh.
“This will just give health care to lazy people and other euphemisms I use to describe poor minorities because I can’t say the words I really want to use.” Well, I’m employed and have good health insurance that I intend to keep, but I also support reform. Why? Because it’s not all about me. For all the talk about how America coddles the poor, there’s a frustrating lack of proof for that. Would any rich/middle-class person in America trade places with a poor “lucky ducky” for some government subsidy? Thought not.
Am I wrong to bring up the racism angle? Given that I uniformly run into talk about “incompetent bureaucrats,” “lazy people,” “welfare cheats” and pretty much any descriptor of Obama, I think it’s a valid concern. When people consider the effects the legislation would have on their suffering friends, neighbors and relatives, they might be amiable to change. Make it about an abstract thug, however, and it becomes all about the bootstraps. It’s an old rhetorical trick, and not a particularly imaginative one.
“Liberals own it now.” That’s right, we do. Republicans have absolutely no claim for any success this legislation will provide, and never will. Because every one of them — along with several moderate Democrats — put political gamesmanship above all else. They whipped their constituents into a frenzy over “death panels” and “government takeovers,” which even they knew was irresponsible, but the Party of No decided long ago that Obama’s failure trumps all other goals.
Still, give it a few years, and everyone will wonder how we ever got by without health care reform. The best thought I can have about it is that, in a generation’s time, no one will even give it a second thought.