Healthcare Reform: Baby Steps

Posted December 20, 2009 on 1:18 pm | In the category Healthcare, Lieberman Watch, McCain, nelson, Politics, Republican Party, U.S. Domestic Policy | by Jeff

Watching the healthcare reform legislative process was like watching someone remove a huge splinter from my finger. Hurt like hell and made me mad. But maybe I will feel better when this particular splinter is out. Not really sure. The Senate bill that is finally about to pass eliminates the public option and the buy into Medicare for those over 55. It is basically an insurance reform bill that does little to control costs or to improve delivery. But it is all we could get due to Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and all of the Republican Senators.

Theories abound as to just why Lieberman continued his evolution into one of the Senate’s worst obstructionists. Some think it is because he is not so bright; others that he was in the pocket of the insurance industry; for a few others it was more simple and basic – that his core values influenced his obstructionist behavior. But the explanation that may make the most sense is that he is seeking revenge on the liberal wing of the Democratic Party for having forsaken him. He ran for president and got nowhere, lost the Democratic nomination for his Senate seat and then had to run as an independent. Whatever the case – whether it is one or more or all of the above – I do hope the day will come when the Democratic leadership will finally tell him to go screw himself.

Ben Nelson used his opposition to mollify Christian right folk in his state of Nebraska (whose population is about .6% of the country) by reducing the separation between church and state to get stronger anti-abortion language in the bill. Curiously, the day before he agreed to support the Senate bill he was lobbied by three religious leaders in Nebraska to support the bill; one of those leaders was a Jesuit priest. The other payout he got for his fellow cornhuskers was a permanent increase in federal contributions to the cost of expanding Medicaid in Nebraska. The fact that other states did not get this – or require being bought off – is indicative of just how venal Nelson is.

As for the Republicans, they are as hypocritical as ever. They fell all over each other to support Bush’s criminal Iraq War that killed hundreds of thousands but cannot bring themselves to support a bill that will save people’s lives. Sam Brownback is crying over the continued existence of at least a shred of the separation of church and state; John McCain has supported wasteful wars his entire career but cannot find a way to stomach spending a dime to improve his constituents’ healthcare. Olympia Snow had a day or two in the spotlight only to disappear into the Maine woods and Judd Gregg continues to pontificate with self-serving charts and elegant ways of saying “no” to everything. But they have done their damage. We will have a bill that gives the health insurance companies a windfall and avoids the tough issues related to costs.

If the final bill actually gets passed some 35 million Americans will newly have access to health insurance, children under the age of 18 will not be denied insurance for “preexisting conditions” and, in time (2014) all Americans will have that protection. It is a baby step on the way to full maturity and compassion in the way we provide healthcare in this country. But it is a start.

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