Thursday, December 24, 2009

Health Care Reform on the Way?

Despite unanimous disapproval from the GOP, the Senate has passed its version of Health Care reform. Now, the House and Senate begin the task of taking those two bills to conference committee to try and strike a final deal on a final bill, to be ultimately signed into law by the President.

It is a long, messy process to say the least, with obvious bitter feelings on many sides of the issues facing our health care system. And although whatever happens in conference committee, you can be sure there will still be universal votes against it from Republicans. There were numerous attempts to try and get portions of the bill to hook in some small number of those on the right, ranging from abortion language to dropping the public option to better language and policy favoring small business, but it really doesn't matter in the end because it had become and is clear nothing would gain any support on the right. I like to think this is not true, but there is something to the first set of comments from Rush Limbaugh immediately after Pres. Obama was sworn into office, where many on the right simply want to see the Obama agenda fail at all costs, period.

I try to listen to the arguments and complaints by the Republican leadership, who are out there every day stating why health care reform will destroy the economy and our childrens' futures, but evidence does not support their claims. Just the fact that some 30 million presently uninsured Americans will be able to obtain some level of health insurance, so one severe injury or illness does not bankrupt them, is a good thing. Can we agree on that? We haven't heard the right bring out CBO numbers lately because the 10-year projection is that it does pay for itself and trims $130 billion from the national debt. There are benefits and incentives for small businesses, which will drive the eventual job creation in the country, which is why some allies of small business have endorsed the plan. We'll keep hearing complaints about how seniors are going to start dying off early from non-existent 'death panels' that some on the right still throw out there for fear-raising purposes, or that Medicare is being raped - this despite the fact that the AARP endorses the plans. If there was any significant detrimental effect on seniors, this endorsement never happens...the language cannot be all that bad, apparently. And most importantly, if there were serious threats to the quality and extent of health care in the country, the AMA never endorses the plans - but they have, so this suggests it can't be all that bad. In fact, many doctors I know still think the best thing that could happen to control costs is some sort of public option, or at least what many other nations do, which is make insurance companies be not-for-profit organizations.

It is only a good thing that insurance companies will no longer be able to have entire divisions devoted to searching for needles in the haystack for their customers pasts so they can have an excuse to deny coverage when the customer needs it the most. It is only a good thing when insurance companies can no longer drop coverage without warning when a necessary procedure is too expensive. And it is only a good thing when it becomes illegal for someone with a 'pre-existing condition' to finally be able to get coverage that will not bankrupt them. If these were the only changes in the end, it would be worth the effort.

Change is not easy. Hell, small change at the local level is never easy, let alone big change at the national level. There is no such thing as a perfect bill in any policy area at any level. There are too many interests and too many emotions that arise to make much more that 50% of the country happy in anything nowadays. So I hope the Democrats push on and pass this, since it is now pointless to hope for any support from Republicans. There are some good things in the bill that will help millions of Americans. If the projections are at all accurate, not only is this going to be cost neutral, but actually lead to some savings. Does more need to be done in the near future to further reduce health care costs and the rates at which those costs are going up? Absolutely. Could the process have been handled better on both sides of the aisle? Absolutely. Are there still going to be critics and those on the far right demanding the Democrats be burned at the stake? Absolutely. But this could be an enormous first step in a multi-step process. Nearly a century after Pres. Teddy Roosevelt called for health care reform, we might get some necessary, very much overdue changes within the next month or two, depending how long the bills are debated in committee. It is time to get it done.

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