Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform: Somewhat Good or Very Bad

Either way, I don't understand why this is seen as a "historic moment" except to those who simply want Democrats and/or our current President to have a victory against Republicans, right-wingers, and/or tea partiers, regardless of substance. Since Democrats tend to be to the left of Republicans (though the whole political spectrum moves rightward without real agitation from below), I suppose a victory over the right-wing is a good thing. What I can't get over is how this so-called victory could have been a far more substantial victory for American's healthcare and how this victory - touted as "historic" and cheered on by so many politically powerful liberal groups - may make real substantive change more difficult.

Health insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions or to children, eventually. If someone gets sick or files a claim, insurance companies won't be allowed to drop them. Poor Americans will have help paying for health insurance - which is good since they will be forced to buy it. There will be increased competition, though it isn't clear that competition does anything to bring down costs. Those are all debatably positive, but rather mild reforms, particularly compared with the bad in this bill and with what we could have had.

However, what is to stop health insurance companies from raising premiums by 1000%? Nothing. What is to stop pharmaceutical companies from chargins $500/pill? Nothing.

We could have real healthcare reform; not health insurance reform. There is no reason why President Obama and the Democratic leadership could not have delivered, at least, a public option. It is popular with Americans, and Obama ran his campaign, in part, on support for such an option and was publicly supporting it all along. A supermajority was an obstacle for awhile, but then that smoke screen fell apart. Yet, now we have a bill that will force Americans to buy coverage from private health insurance companies, which continue to rake in billions and raise premiums, and does nothing significant to control costs or CEO bonuses.

Now that we have this enormous piece of legislation with private insurance as central to the whole plan, and a lot of Democratic political capital gone, does a public option or anything better stand a chance? With liberal organizations like MoveOn and liberal politicians like Dennis Kucinich cheering this on or at least dropping all opposition and telling everyone else to fall into line, can we look to our liberal Democratic politicians and those liberal/progressive organizations with a small amount of power in Washington to really fight for improvements to this legislation? This looks bad. We may have given up something great for something maybe ok, and that makes something somewhat good actually very bad.

Sure, as merely a peon in this empire of a "democracy" I may have to cut my losses on this one, but why should I excuse those politicians and organizations who have real power inside the beltway? Maybe there are some positive things in this legislation, that is not clear, but either way, I know we could have and should have had something better. President Obama and Nancy Pelosi could have delivered something far better, and instead they decided to cut deals with big, multi-billion dollar industries, just so they could get their "Mission Accomplished" moment for this president and this political party. Well, I'm not a Democrat. I'm a human being who despises and fears illness and poverty and pain and hates the fact that the richest country in the world still has to settle for wealthy industries buying wealthy politicians while the rest of us cheer on or despise our political theater, but still get sicker.

A lot of people I respect, and even love. like this legislation and are happy that it is going to pass. A lot of people I can't stand hate this bill and think Obama is a socialist Nazi. I personally think they're both wrong, and I hope the former will understand and accept my humble opinion. I myself could be wrong, my friends, and I genuinely respect your opinion. I hope the latter will stop watching Fox News and wake up, or otherwise shut the hell up.

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