Friday, December 25, 2009

A Costly Victory - And Perhaps A Useless One

As someone who has consistently advocated the reform of the health care system and as a voice that was far from silent on this issue in the past, I find the fact that the Senate has managed to pass a bill on health care insurance reform encouraging.

I also recognize that the failure to pass it would have been trumpeted by that portion of this country which continues to contest things simply because of the political party that presented them, ignoring the greater question of whether or not something is actually beneficial to their constituents.

Yet I am not happy about this vote that took place at dawn on Christmas Eve. Primarily because of the word before reform in my first paragraph. Insurance.

I am an unashamed advocate of universal health care. This is not that. Is this a victory for the Obama faction and it's supporters, including me? Yes, in that it was shown that things could be passed despite the full onslaught of the ridiculous opponents who cried about death panels and socialistic medicine.

But this legislation is far short of what we actually need in this country. It is only a first step and I fear that politicians tired of defending themselves from the histrionic antics of a vocal and ill-informed minority will now abandon this fight in favor of ones that don't get them called names. They can claim victory and that will be enough.

It's a silly position for two reasons.

First, you are leaving a job unfinished and half-assed is not good enough. Yes, it is better than nothing. But although this is a victory for reform, it is also a victory for the insurance companies. They still exist and they still are able to place profits over public good. A European friend of mine explained his view of the problems of health care in America very simply... "Of course your health care is too expensive and not good enough - you spend more than half the money on insurance companies and administration." That fact does not change with this bill.

We are still protecting the insurance companies. We shouldn't be. Free market economics, right my Republican friends? The insurance companies, who are essentially abacus salesmen in an age of calculators and computers, are left hale and healthy by this bill. A mistake, possibly an epic one.

Second, you are completely blind to the world view of your opposition. They could care less what legislation you propose. As long as the primary sponsor of the bill has a D next to their name rather than an R, the legislation must be evil.

If a Democrat proposes a bill saying that bunnies are cute and furry and a legitimate symbol of Easter, Fox News would run a story saying that representative hates baby chicks.

You can not meet their hate halfway. Until they quit looking at who supports legislation and start looking at who would benefit from it, compromise is entirely useless.

So yes, this is a victory. The democratic leadership has shown they can get something done despite the vitriol and propaganda of the right. But this is a starting point, not an ending one. Ted Kennedy's legacy is not fulfilled and if you honor his memory and if the democrats are truly concerned for their constituents instead of what people that already hate them say about them across their dinner tables, this will remain only a beginning.

We shall see. Actions speak louder than words.

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