Last night the US House of Congress did what was right. They passed (albeit narrowly) the most progressive, humane and sweeping healthcare bill in our lifetime. And whilst it’s not perfect or comprehensive, it’s a start.
Quite simply, Obama has triumphed where others have failed. The efforts of Clinton, Nixon and Roosevelt now stand in the shadow of Obama’s monumental success.
So why is it a moment for non-American vicarious pride?
1. The bill will counter-intuitively reduce the deficit by nearly $150,000,000,000.
2. Insurance companies can no longer use their red rubber ‘Failed’ stamp on applications on the basis of pre-existing conditions.
3. Those on Medicare will pay less for prescription drugs.
4. Medicaid will be extended to include and provide more.
5. Employers cannot provide workers with unduly high-priced health plans without accepting a taxation on that premium.
6. The Government will subsidise health insurance for low-income families and individuals to allow them to purchase it for themselves, often for the first time.
7. Those not covered must find insurance, or face fines.
8. Oh and finally there is the small matter of the 30,000,000 more Americans – that’s the equivalent of half of England, six Scotlands or the populations of Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Utah, Missouri, Virginia, Alaska, South Dakota and Hawaii combined – who will be insured under this plan. Thirty Million.
Thirty Million Fewer Tears, and Thirty Million More Smiles.
But beneath the champagne corks and party poppers, there is a lingering and foul smelling truth. Not a single Republican, not a single human being wearing a GOP badge, voted for this bill. Not one. And even worse, over thirty Democrats joined them in their joyless corner of self-seeking and proto-electioneering. Where the Blues will now vote through a series of amendments in the Senate to move the bill towards the Democratic ideal, the Reds (now slightly violet with 34 Dems on the palette) will use the bill as the ‘Bush’ of 2007-08. Something to rally against, something to appeal to the disgruntled conservative and the disenfranchised moderate in the upcoming midterms. Human life as a volleyball – what an ugly, yet traditional, political tactic. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Republicans continue to use the lexicon of health ‘Kill the Bill’ to speak of the legislation rather than the human issue. The vote shows that crossing the aisle is alive in America today, but only Democrats are willing to do it, and in the wrong direction.
The vote (219-212) is undoubtedly a success for the President who has been represented as treading water for the last fourteen months. And whilst the legislation is far from the utopic vision of the campaign trail it is realistic and 30,000,000 x better than what is currently in place.
Some have argued that this is a decision without political motivation. But Obama knows that this bill historicises and validates his time in office. The move bolsters his power and refuels the engine of hope which drove him all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania over one year ago. With this improved image and sense of authority, financial regulation reform may be in the President’s sights before November. If successful. ‘No He Can’t’ will be an unconvincig slogan for the Grand Old Party’s campaign come the Autumn.
Surely Resolute desk will give a satisfied creak of approval, as the President’s pen scrawls the signature of a man who finally (if imperfectly) forced America’s healthcare system into the twenty-first century.