Monday, March 22, 2010

The Sober Reality of Health Care Reform

The Sober Reality of Health Care Reform

FDL Statement

on the Passage of the Health Care Bill


March 22, 2010


by Jane Hamsher


The country turned an important corner last night when

Congress affirmed the moral imperative of providing

quality health care to more Americans and passed the

President's sweeping health insurance reform bill. It

is to President Obama's credit that he was willing to

commit his office to such a challenge when others

before him had failed.


But this is not health care reform, and the task of

providing health care that Americans can afford is

still before us. Too much was sacrificed to corporate

interests in the sausage-making process. Rather than

address the fundamental flaws in our health care

system, we applied a giant band-aid. This health care

bill does not come close to doing all that needs to be

done to meet the needs of our citizens and our

businesses as we retool our economy for the 21st century.


There are many good and praise-worthy things in this

health care bill: help for those with pre-existing

conditions, guaranteed coverage for children, money for

community health centers, and expansion of Medicaid and

SCHIP. But there is also cause for serious concern.

Never before has the government mandated that its

citizens pay directly to private corporations almost as

much as they do in federal taxes, especially when those

corporations have been granted unregulated monopolies.


This bill fundamentally shifts the relationships of

governance in order to achieve its objectives. It was

hard to reconcile the President's campaign against the

evils of the insurance industry with a solution of

"corporate tithing" that drives millions of people onto

their rolls. We have empowered another

quasi-governmental, "too big to fail" industry with

alarming nonchalance.


Over the course of the past year, it was exciting to

take part in covering the health care debate as online

journalists, watching "new media" mature as we all

explored new ways to deliver information beat-by-beat

to our audiences. At the same time, we witnessed a

political process that could not keep pace with the

depth and intensity of this coverage. Myths were

exploded almost as quickly as they were generated. In

the end, it was not a lack of 60 votes or 50 votes that

caused the President to break faith with his supporters

and sacrifice the public option, it was a lack of

political will.


We saw in the last days what President Obama was

capable of when he truly put the force of his political

skill behind an effort. But as time wore on, the

mountain of data unearthed could lead to only one

conclusion: this bill, with its eerie similarities to a

plan written by insurance industry lobbyists in 2008,

was what the president wanted.


Rather than use his talents to rein in corporate

interests, as he promised on the campaign trail, the

President used his office to shield them from

accountability.  This was our chance to weaken them,

and the Americans that Obama inspired with his message

of change would have fought like hell by his side to do

just that. Sadly, that opportunity was squandered.

President Obama made himself the defender of the

corporate interest problem that we still need to

overcome.   Perhaps that is the best that can be

achieved within our current system. If so, that is a

sobering reality.


This bill is a first step, not the last. The Democrats

must fix this bill while they still have the chance.

Before they leave Americans at the mercy of the system

they have created, it is imperative that they address

the issues of cost control, the dangerously weak

enforcement mechanisms, and the anti-trust exemption

for insurance companies.


Even a single, solitary Senator can begin that process

immediately by introducing a public option amendment

when the Senate takes up the reconciliation bill later

this week. Now that the health care bill has passed,

there is no need to worry that this move could endanger

the overall package. The Senate should also consider

the bill ending the anti-trust exemption for insurance

companies already passed by the House. And when

Congress takes up immigration reform, we hope that they

provide for the health care needs of immigrants, a need

too quickly cast aside in the face of right wing demagoguery.


We also hope that the Democratic party recalls that

preserving abortion rights is a plank in the party

platform. Unfortunately, with this legislation, women's

reproductive rights were sacrificed for corporate

profits. There's no other way to say it. And the party

alone is not to blame. It could not have happened

without the cooperation of pro-choice groups, who

failed to mobilize and did little but issue press

releases and fundraise in the wake of the biggest

assault on women's reproductive rights in 35 years.

Their complete capitulation is symptomatic of the

crisis that the passage of this bill has triggered on

the left.  Liberal interest groups across the board

sacrificed the interests of their members, and, in the

end, acted as little more than enforcers for PhRMA and

the insurance companies, or sat mute in exchange for

personal sinecures and carve-outs.


But it is a national shame that a Democratic President

who pledged the repeal of the Hyde Amendment would

proudly issue an executive order affirming it.  How far

we've come since 2007, when Barack Obama swore that his

first act in office would be to sign the Freedom of

Choice Act.


And finally, most of all, we hope that members of both

parties find the courage to stand up to the corporate

lobbyists who dominated this process-because if left

unchecked, their pernicious influence will continue to

infect every aspect of our government to the detriment

of its citizens. We who are voters must clearly

communicate in November that we will accept nothing

less because the fight cannot end until we as a nation

decide to take on the corporate interests that are

corrupting our political institutions and strangling

their ability to provide affordable healthcare to

everyone. (c) 2010 FireDogLake


Jane Hamsher is the founder of Her

work has also appeared on The Daily Beat, AlterNet, The

Nation and The American Prospect.


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