I’m Having Second Thoughts on the Health Care Bill

I am one of those people who frequently jump to conclusions and revise those judgments after a little more thought. In the heat of the moment, I am wont to blurt out declarations that would have been better left unsaid. Oh well, that’s just the way I am. So bear with me while I “walk back” my earlier blogs calling for the demise of America’s health care legislation.

Stung by the deplorable machinations in the Senate and the injustices tolerated by the Democratic leadership in order to get something – anything – through the blockade set up by Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, I advocated abandoning the reform attempt and letting American voters settle the health care “debate” at the polls.

I was in agreement with commentators like Arianna Huffington (photo below), who implacably opposes passage of the legislation. Here’s a sentence from her most recent column:arianna

If the miserable Senate health care bill becomes the law of the land, it’s only going to encourage the preservation of a hideously broken system.

However, I have been persuaded that killing the health care bill would be unwise. For one thing, the public appears to have turned against health care reform. The latest polls show approximately 60 percent against and 40 percent in favor. I don’t know how that happened. The cynical explanation is that in a country of more than 300 million people about 50 million are without coverage. So the insured majority may be thinking they’re all right and the uninsured can fend for themselves. Human beings are a selfish lot, after all.

Of course, it’s not that simple. But the Democrats and the White House have done a poor job of explaining why it’s in everybody’s interest to reform the tragic health care system that is bankrupting Americans and America. Or it may be that the Republicans have done a great public relations job. The Republicans’ arguments seem ludicrous to me, but – as the old saying goes – nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Perhaps the public was turned off by the repugnant way in which Majority Leader Harry Reid used bribery and compromise to get the 60 Senate votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Hundreds of millions of dollars for the likes of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, for example – not to them personally, but to the states they represent. And the weak-kneed abandonment of a proposed Medicare buy-in for people as young as 55 in order to appease that snake-in-the-grass, Joe Lieberman.

dionneWhatever the reasons, support for the health care legislation is evaporating. So if health care reform is ever to become a reality, this is no time to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” as President Obama and his allies keep saying.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. (photo at right) cautions that:

The notion that letting the current health care bill perish would produce a more progressive bill later is preposterous.

And Salon’s editor in chief, Joan Walsh (photo below) declares:

joanThere is a genuine and justified concern among progressives that this bill enshrines an alarming corporatist Democrat view of “reform”: Make nominally liberal social-service expansions safe for the private sector. That is absolutely what is going on.

In my opinion, left and center Democrats need to compromise now, make good on their campaign promise to pass the bill and insure millions more people. And then progressives need to challenge the corporatist pillars of the party in rhetoric, legislation, and in elections, in 2010 and 2012, and beyond.

In other words, let’s take what we can get and hope “to fight again another day.”

And, thinking about it, I grudgingly have to agree. Despite its horrendous shortcomings, the legislation that seems about to become law does provide coverage for more than 30 million Americans who could not otherwise afford insurance. And nearly 50 million Americans reportedly die every year because they lack health insurance.

Standing on principle is a noble thing to do, but not when you must sacrifice the lives of others to do it. I have health insurance. You have health insurance. Who are we to deny health insurance to other people because we find the actions of lawmakers repugnant?