Bleeding Hearts Battle Over Bill: Pro

This Might Be Our Last Chance

By David Nahmias

International Editor Emeritus

The health care bill is flawed. There – I said it. Yet the consequences of not passing it are dire. The goal of securing quality, affordable health care for Americans must continually guide us, and the bill serves as a significant stepping-stone toward achieving it. The Democrats will probably have no other opportunity like this to approve progressive health reform, and wasting it will ruin the American health system for decades.
 
Before the “Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009” entered committee, the public clamored for reform, and a majority of poll respondents consistently accepted the notion of a government plan akin to Medicare to compete with (not supplant) private insurance plans. Yet through prevarication and misinformation, the Republicans capitalized on the public’s fears of what they didn’t understand by disseminating macabre illusions about death panels and socialism that turned into juicy sound bites. They have made no attempt to alter the bill with keeping an eye on the ultimate goal of creating an affordable health care system for all Americans. Just managing to bring the health care bill to a full vote was a feat requiring remarkably filthy tactics (Ben Nelson comes to mind).

Nonetheless, it is essential that the Congress passes health care reform now. If we fail now, then health care will become political taboo. No President will risk reliving the disaster endured by the Democratic caucus after the closest attempt in American history to reform health care ultimately failed. Neither political party even suggested the initiative for years after the “HillaryCare” fiasco. Thus for decades health care costs will continue to spiral out of control, but this time the explosion in entitlement spending could cripple the federal government. Millions of Americans will still lack insurance coverage or be denied benefits due to preexisting conditions. Those who do have it will probably still pay more for quality care than do their peers around the world. The insurance industry will continue to hold the health of the American people hostage.

Throughout history, dramatic social change has taken place in increments. No grand, sweeping national agenda is realized in a day – we try out innovative policies, tinker with them, save the good and scrap the bad. One single speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., did not change American society; the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not instantaneously erase centuries of entrenched segregation and discrimination. It took an entire Civil Rights Movement to transform national norms and attitudes, and numerous pieces of legislation built upon one another to create a body of laws and regulations guaranteeing civil rights. Similarly, today’s current health care bill follows a legacy of Congressional debate and legislative action to create and improve health care. From expansion during the New Deal and the LBJ’s Great Society through Reagan’s Medicare cuts and Clinton’s welfare reform, the American health care system has transformed step-by-step.

Health care reform in 2010 is just another step, albeit a substantial one. Once these regulations are in place, assessments of its progress will commence and eventually spark new ideas, legislation, and change. The goal of quality, affordable health care will not be attained when President Obama signs the bill, but we will be heading in that direction.

Consider the steps that the health care bill takes. Health care reform is fiscally responsible. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office asserts that the House version would reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over ten years. The Senate plan also halves Medicare’s annual growth rate of spending per person. In addition, the bill enacts stiffer regulations of the health insurance industry, most importantly by prohibiting insurance companies from denying patients based on preexisting conditions. Yet above all, it expands coverage to 30 million more Americans, leaving only about 7% of the population uninsured. Weren’t these goals all along: to cut costs, regulate the health care industry, and provide nearly universal coverage?

It is imperative that we remember these goals, why Democrats have put their historic majorities on the line in order to pass health care. We weathered vicious attacks and political ploys to arrive at this moment. The recent election of Scott Brown to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat has Democrats in an uproar, but they still must not squander this pivotal opportunity. The health care bill has its flaws and requires further evaluation, but no accurate assessment can be made until the regulations are codified and the system slowly transforms. Though we have not accomplished fundamental objectives of health care reform, with this bill we take the crucial step forward.

The health care bill is flawed. There – I said it. Yet the consequences of not passing it are dire. The goal of securing quality, affordable health care for Americans must continually guide us, and the bill serves as a significant stepping-stone toward achieving it. The Democrats will probably have no other opportunity like this to approve progressive health reform, and wasting it will ruin the American health system for decades.

Before the “Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009” entered committee, the public clamored for reform, and a majority of poll respondents consistently accepted the notion of a government plan akin to Medicare to compete with (not supplant) private insurance plans. Yet through prevarication and misinformation, the Republicans capitalized on the public’s fears of what they didn’t understand by disseminating macabre illusions about death panels and socialism that turned into juicy sound bites. They have made no attempt to alter the bill with keeping an eye on the ultimate goal of creating an affordable health care system for all Americans. Just managing to bring the health care bill to a full vote was a feat requiring remarkably filthy tactics (Ben Nelson comes to mind).

Nonetheless, it is essential that the Congress passes health care reform now. If we fail now, then health care will become political taboo. No President will risk reliving the disaster endured by the Democratic caucus after the closest attempt in American history to reform health care ultimately failed. Neither political party even suggested the initiative for years after the “HillaryCare” fiasco. Thus for decades health care costs will continue to spiral out of control, but this time the explosion in entitlement spending could cripple the federal government. Millions of Americans will still lack insurance coverage or be denied benefits due to preexisting conditions. Those who do have it will probably still pay more for quality care than do their peers around the world. The insurance industry will continue to hold the health of the American people hostage.

Throughout history, dramatic social change has taken place in increments. No grand, sweeping national agenda is realized in a day – we try out innovative policies, tinker with them, save the good and scrap the bad. One single speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., did not change American society; the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not instantaneously erase centuries of entrenched segregation and discrimination. It took an entire Civil Rights Movement to transform national norms and attitudes, and numerous pieces of legislation built upon one another to create a body of laws and regulations guaranteeing civil rights. Similarly, today’s current health care bill follows a legacy of Congressional debate and legislative action to create and improve health care. From expansion during the New Deal and the LBJ’s Great Society through Reagan’s Medicare cuts and Clinton’s welfare reform, the American health care system has transformed step-by-step.

Health care reform in 2010 is just another step, albeit a substantial one. Once these regulations are in place, assessments of its progress will commence and eventually spark new ideas, legislation, and change. The goal of quality, affordable health care will not be attained when President Obama signs the bill, but we will be heading in that direction.

Consider the steps that the health care bill takes. Health care reform is fiscally responsible. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office asserts that the House version would reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over ten years. The Senate plan also halves Medicare’s annual growth rate of spending per person. In addition, the bill enacts stiffer regulations of the health insurance industry, most importantly by prohibiting insurance companies from denying patients based on preexisting conditions. Yet above all, it expands coverage to 30 million more Americans, leaving only about 7% of the population uninsured. Weren’t these goals all along: to cut costs, regulate the health care industry, and provide nearly universal coverage?

It is imperative that we remember these goals, why Democrats have put their historic majorities on the line in order to pass health care. We weathered vicious attacks and political ploys to arrive at this moment. The recent election of Scott Brown to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat has Democrats in an uproar, but they still must not squander this pivotal opportunity. The health care bill has its flaws and requires further evaluation, but no accurate assessment can be made until the regulations are codified and the system slowly transforms. Though we have not accomplished fundamental objectives of health care reform, with this bill we take the crucial step forward.

The Claremont Port Side is dedicated to providing the Claremont Colleges with contextualized, intelligent reports to advance debate among students and citizens. This is a progressive newsmagazine that offers pertinent information and thoughtful analysis on the issues confronting and challenging our world, our country, and our community.


11 Responses to “Bleeding Hearts Battle Over Bill: Pro”

  1. katie stevens2003 says:

    i make less than $1200 a month and even with a subsidy i still will not be able to afford to pay for the mandated coverage. rent is over 1/2 my income and i’m having a very hard time as it is.

    tell me, is your rent already paid with ease each month? do you have disposable income to enjoy a few niceties in life?

    i don’t and even with a subsidy this mandate does me no good.

    i will end up going to jail because i don’t even have enough money for the penalty.

    all of you who write such articles, tell me from the comfort of your job, from the comfort of your moneyed positions, do you ever consider that those in the low income world may not be so well served by this?

    add to the required premiums the increased taxes to be levied to pay for this legislation and a minimal lifestyle like mine will quickly become a battle for survival.

    furthermore, i do not feel at all comfortable getting a $4000+ subsidy. not at all. it’s just not right. how would you feel living on $30 a week for food and wearing three sweaters and two pairs of sweat pants when you can’t afford to keep the heat on all day and it’s freezing outside?

  2. alan says:

    Katie’s right. There are all sorts of unintended and nasty real world ramifications associated with the passage of this terribly flawed HC monstrosity. Not the least of which is the unfathomable cost of another massive entitlement program on the already fragile US economy. This recent article should give every citizen serious pause for thought:

    [Removed due to Copyright]

    Despite having the country’s credit card maxed out and in danger of melting from overuse, it seems David N. would like every Democratic desperado in Congress to go against the expressed will of their constituents and the American public at large, and strap on a healthcare-passing suicide vest in order to blow up their careers and what’s left of the country’s chances for financial stability in a partisan blaze of glory.

    Something tells me that might not be the best idea…

  3. katie stevens2003 says:

    Alan: I appreciate you sharing this with the readers. I’ve been posting about the hardships the mandate will cause but very few responses related to the real world come back to me.

    Here in New York things are way overpriced. Even if I cook all my food and eat leftovers it gets downright unhealthy sometimes having such a carb heavy diet (rice & benas with collard greens, mac n cheese with a little bit of chopped ham, etc.). Really fresh, delicious, high quality vegetables are expensive with a bag of prewashed salads retailing near $4-5 here. So I rely on canned fruits and veggies. Hardly the stuff of a healthy diet for the long term.

    Yet to hear all the proponents going on about pressing for reform immediately they convince me that (a) they won’t be effected financially or (b) they think it will all be for free.

    There is nothing for free here. Everyone except the most destitute and at the bottom of the socio-economic scale will have to pay something towards the monthly premium. And no matter now much a person makes the government will require more of the take.

    I read the bill, just a little, and was horrified at some of the penalties imposed on employers. If I understood it correctly a business will have to pay a penalty if they employ a person who is receiving a subsidy for the mandated coverage. If this is true, then it will be a big disincentive for businesses to hire workers from the lower income population who receive subsidies.

    I do not see this as being a job creator in the sense that people will be hired full-time. What I think will happen is that businesses will hire temps or contingency employees for specific periods of time. They will leave the headache of mandated insurance and government related paper work to the temp agencies.

  4. A Student says:

    You know, a good number of my family members are poor and yet we support the need for changing the way health care is handled in this country.

    Three years ago, when my father (a contract tile worker and date picker) had pains in his stomach, he didn’t have a basic health insurance plan from his employers to cover his trip to the doctor. While he was out in the fields his appendix burst and he went massively in debt in order to pay the hospital expenses. After the hospital kicked him out, he was lucky enough to stay in the garage of a local nurse to get the treatment he desperately needed. When people like my father cannot get care at the early stages due to lack of insurance, it costs the system and the economy more in expensive procedures and lost productivity to fix it.

    Katie, I’m sorry if you see this as an undue burden. But having subsidized (very heavily, in your income bracket) regular doctor visits will be better and cheaper in the long run. I wouldn’t want anyone to end up like my father who lost over half of year of productivity recovering slowly from a preventable disease.

  5. alan says:

    Everything you say is true, Katie. If most people truly understood what was in that bill, and the devastating short- and long-term effects it will have on the economy, jobs and people’s household budgets, they wouldn’t be quite so quick to support it. Like most things, the devil’s in the details.

    The insurance companies may be a pain to deal with, but they are benign compared to the government.

    By the way, you don’t have to answer this, but why are you staying in NY if it’s so expensive? Why not try another city where the cost of living is a bit more reasonable?

  6. Sam says:

    Katie, why don’t you try to move to Canada, or somewhere similar where you’ll get free healthcare?

  7. alan says:

    A student:

    I’m sorry to hear about your Dad’s illness. Certainly it would have been better for him to access treatment of some kind when he needed it.

    But that is not the question at hand. Mr. Nahmias is suggesting that the Democratic House and Senate throw caution to the wind and try to ram through a sick puppy hybrid of the two Frankensteinian health care bills they have before them in order to pass something — anything.

    Those of us that disagree point out that there are many ways to improve healthcare access and enact basic reform for uninsured folks like your father and others like him without having the federal government take over the entire system that the other 85% of the country is happy with.

    It’s not a zero sum game here. And despite what some desperately claim, the choices we face are neither cut and dried, nor binary.

  8. alan says:

    I’m afraid Katie knows that when the premier of a Canadian province heads south to the US for his heart operation, as have many prominent Canadian and international politicians over the years, it is hardly a vote of confidence for government run “free” healthcare.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2010/02/01/nl-williams-heart-201.html

    Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien took his own family to private health clinics. In fact, he didn’t just use U.S.-style private clinics, he actually went to private clinics in the U.S. Robert Bourassa, the late Quebec premier, flew to the U.S. for cancer treatment. Joe Clark, the leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives, paid cash for a suite at Toronto’s private Shouldice Hospital, where he had a hernia operation in the late 1980s. Belinda Stronach, another politician, headed to the US for treatment a few years back.

    tp://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/256600

    And that’s just Canada. British and European politicians do exactly the same thing. Nothing is free, and the best way in which to judge who has the best system and the finest quality of care in the world is to look where people with money and power go when they, or their family members are sick.

  9. katie stevens2003 says:

    Thank you everyone for well thought out replies. This is the most cordial and intelligent forum I’ve visited to discuss the topic.

    To A Student: I’m really sorry to learn about what happened to your father. And yes, you’re right that access to affordable care and treatment may prevent a descent into serious illness.

    However, the purpose of my post was to offer another point of view on the immediate hardship an individual mandate will cause, especially when living on a limited income. One may indeed get a subsidy and have insurance but with the monthly budget being minus the money paid to the premium a big concern becomes how will a person get the money to see the doctor?

    I’ve had a chance to review the Bronze Plan offered by Massachusetts Commonwealth Care and the deductible is $2000. That’s quite a layout for some people.

    So what’s the difference between a Bronze Plan and a high deductible plan with a Health Savings Account? All I’ve been able to learn is that if the HC Reform as it exists in the Senate bill goes into law HSA holders will be very limited in how much money they can put into an account.

    Personally speaking I would prefer the $2500 tax credit to buy a basic policy and then bank my money into a HSA. Since my salary varies each month there wouldn’t be any pressure to deposit a fixed amount each time.

    The reason why I can’t leave New York is that my Mother is in the intermediate stages of Parkinsonism and I am her only child nearby. She’s living in a residence hear where I live. Most of our family has passed on and I want to be with her for as long as necessary.

    Things for me are very difficult but I’ve got a good support network and if the recession has taught me anything it’s just how valuable friends and neighbors are. My Landlord gives me a break on the rent because I help him with cleaning, shopping, and cooking.

    I don’t think America should copy a European style system of socialized medicine because we are much bigger than any such country. We are so diverse and each region has it’s own culture and needs. That is why I still think we need to go on a state by state basis and let the citizens decide.

    I have been trying for months to learn more about what people in Massachusetts really experience with the mandated coverage. Yet there is little I’ve found that brings the experience home in terms I can understand. There are economic studies and insurance industry studies but what will let the rest of us know what the experience like is to have the voices of the people tell us their stories. Why hasn’t the media provided this?

    I previously worked at jobs that provided very good benefits. When I became unemployed I was referred to a social worker for Medicaid. This was my first experience with socialized medicine and it was part good and part not-very-good.

    I only had a $5 co-pay for basic doctor visits. The processing time for my application was six weeks. I was treated better as a Medicaid patient than when I was a private paying patient. The Medicaid HMO (HIP of NY) would call me up to give me healthcare tips and recommend dentists, for example. The representative was reading off a script as if I was a child and I got annoyed after awhile so I usually told them that it wasn’t necessary to encourage me to floss my teeth, for example. I kid you not. I was talked to as if I was a child.

    My Medicaid PCP (primary care physician) then referred me for a mammogram and sonogram. When I visited him for the results he told me I was in very good health. He then went on to lecture me about the need to take precautions when I was “sexually active”. He assumed I actually had the time and was of the mind to be so. He wanted to give me a series of shots for the Hepatitus B Vaccine so I wouldn’t have to worry about contracting that disease while being sexually active.

    I told the Doctor that I’m much too busy with my job and other duties around the building to be sexually active and that I prefer to abstain for now. I’m just not of that mindset right now.

    He shook my hand and hustled me out of the office!

    The reason I’d gone to see this Doctor was to get a cyst on my scalp removed. He said it was too small to worry about. I also called HIP of New York to ask them why I couldn’t get surgery for the cyst.

    The answer I got was that Medicaid considers this type of surgery Cosmetic and wouldn’t pay for it. They also wouldn’t cover my dermatologist visits because it’s considered cosmetic.

    I’m prone to flare-ups of cystic acne and know it’s not cosmetic. I put the Medicaid card in the drawer. I put aside money from the tax refund to pay for the dermatologist each year. The cyst eventually drained but if it were infected I’d end up in the ER to get an incision and drainage.

    So yes, I see the need for reform and support it, but not in the way it’s currently proposed. My non-support for the Senate Bill is not because I don’t want people to have treatment, but because I think that we are being forced into buying private insurance and being forced to buy the kind of policy the government wants us to.

    There is an assumption, as I see it, that the Government is trying to protect us by mandating what type of product we buy. But I’m still not at all convinced that the coverage will stay affordable and that it will be sustainable.

    I’ve read that Tennessee had mandated coverage back in the 1990s and that the state almost went bankrupt. It didn’t work then and I don’t believe this way of providing health insurance will work again.

    • Alan says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom’s infirmity, Katie.

      You’re a great daughter and a truly fine person to be helping her out at your own expense, and I’m glad that you have a support network that you can rely on.

      Please take care and keep your spirits up — good things have a habit of happening to good people.

      All the best …

      • katie stevens2003 says:

        Thank you. You or anyone else may feel free to contact me at katiestevens2003@yahoo.com

        I’ve had other experiences with my local Senators regarding the HC legislation. I’ll be happy to share it here or directly. The more we relate to each other on a person-to-person basis the better it is to understand what needs to be done and what ideas our fellow citizens have done. We need to interface with each other and not through radio talk shows and TV programs.

        What is most frightening to me is the way a local Senator changed face shortly after her appointment to the post and came back like a firebrand for the Senate bill all the while being brusque and what I see as disrespectful of our Governor who appointed her in the first place. If you’re interested I’ll provide details.


Leave a Reply

Published with support from Generation Progress. genprogress.org

Copyright © 2014 Claremont Port Side.