Saturday, March 27, 2010


I was just fourteen years old when Congress approved a "new" healthcare proposal for

people 65 and over. Back then, some called it a government takeover of healthcare. Some

called it socialism and socialized medicine. Critics claimed it resembled central planning

similar to the Soviet Union and violated the free market principles our nation was founded

upon. At that time, the American Medical Association was completely opposed and predicted

the proposal would drive doctors out of business. That proposal became what we have come

to know as Medicare.

Today, no politician or political party would suggest abolishing Medicare. In fact, no one

can imagine a healthcare system without this provision for senior citizens. Ironically, in this

recent round of healthcare debates regressives actually claimed Medicare as their own idea.

The same Medicare they once opposed, they now take on the mantle of "protecting" (more


Recently, predictions about the death of direly-needed healthcare reform were legion.

You couldn't find a pundit or talking head who hadn't proclaimed its demise at least two or

three times. They claimed it was dead after the "summer of discontent" when their "smart"

political strategy turned town hall meetings into bite-sized versions of the Jerry Springer

Show. It was dead when not finished by Labor Day, dead because Obama spent too much

time courting Republican votes, dead when Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts to

Ted Kennedy's old seat, dead when the issue of abortion raised it's pointy head. The corporate

media had more wakes than the Irish during the potato famine, and more post-mortems than

a big city coroner on a hot Saturday night.

One of the lessons from fourteen months of debate ought to be how poorly the corporate

media performed its function as a political barometer. If the National Weather Service's

predictions failed as often, it would be out of business.

In spite of the diversion, the President has now signed into law the most sweeping piece

of progressive social legislation in 45 years. It will expand health insurance to 32 million

Americans who previously had no access before. If you lose your job and health insurance,

you cannot be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. As soon as the bill was signed,

no child could be denied care due to a previous illness. Your children can stay on your policy

until they are 26. If you employ under 50 people, you will get tax credits to enable you to

provide them with health insurance. If you work 30 or more hours a week (Walmart anyone?),

you are now considered "full-time" for the purposes of qualifying for employer-based health

insurance. Companies with over 50 employees are now required to provide health insurance.

Senior citizens facing the "donut hole", a provision of the Medicare Prescription Drug Program

which required seniors to pay thousands of dollars for drugs once a cost threshold had been

reached, has been closed. Families who make $88,000 a year or less will get tax subsidies

to help defray the cost of health insurance. Individual customers will now be able to join

risk pools to get affordable coverage. Millions of dollars for "pilot" programs will be available

to find new ways to deliver quality healthcare for less cost; and if history is any guide, many

of these programs will end up improving services and lowering costs in unimagined ways.

And as a bonus, twenty thousand new doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals will be

needed to serve the millions of previously underserved and new patients.

This is a huge victory for President Obama. In the East Room of the White House he

proclaimed "...this is what change looks like". History will declare Obama the winner; but

it will also note the key role House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played. Reports are already

surfacing that it was Pelosi who demanded Obama not scale back the legislation after Scott

Brown's victory. It was Pelosi who pushed back against Rahm Emanuel, who wanted any

"cheap" victory he could achieve. It was Pelosi who came up with a way to use the Senate

version and keep the heat on Harry Reid in the Senate. It was Pelosi who engineered the

Presidential executive order which satisfied abortion opponents, enabling the legislation

to pass. I confess, I have been critical of Pelosi on how badly she managed issues like the

Iraq War, torture, the immunity granted to the telecom companies who illegally spied on

their customers, the bankruptcy legislation, and her refusal to meet with her own constituents;

but, in my opinion, she has now solidified her place as one of the most effective Speakers in

modern history.

Regressives say they will mount a campaign to make the 2010 midterm elections a

referendum on this new healthcare legislation. I say, bring it on! GOP Chairman Michael

Steele has already sent out a fundraising appeal claiming that with enough new regressives

winning election to the House, they can regain control and repeal this affront to all that is

dear to this nation. Expect Republicans to trumpet that a vote for them is a vote to repeal

this legislation. It's an interesting strategy. Vote for a Republican and see a return to the

discrimination of pre-existing conditions. Vote GOP and have your kids kicked off your

insurance. Put a Republican in the House and seniors will have to pay thousands of dollars

for drugs they don't have to pay for now. Return control of the House to Republican John

Boehner and add tens of thousands of dollars to the overhead of your small business. Vote

regressive and drop 32 million Americans from the health insurance rolls. It is my hope they

are serious about painting the contest as a choice between rolling back these benefits or

maintaining the status quo.

Taking a moment of calm reflection, there is, however, one aspect of this entire debate

which has me baffled. Contained in this bill are tax increases, mandates requiring all

Americans to purchase health insurance, possible changes in some Medicare procedures,

and numerous other provisions that are both contentious or unpopular with some Americans.

Yet, the one provision which has constantly had overwhelming support with the American

people, the one idea which has garnered more than a 50% majority in every poll over the

past fourteen months, the one concept which Americans totally embraced, the Public Option,

was dropped without a fair-thee-well. I thought the majority ruled. How is it that of all the

contentious provisions passed, the one truly popular idea which would have created

competition and driven prices down was abandoned? I don't have an answer and it troubles

me. Unless...was this the key back room trade off?

This is a great victory for my children. This is a great victory for progressives. This is

what progress looks like. America has taken a step towards delivering healthcare like the

rest of the industrialized world. We are a step closer to the day when no American will live

in fear of getting sick, no American will lose their home to pay for healthcare, no American

will have to work for lower wages in order to preserve employer-based health insurance, no

American will avoid going to the doctor out of fear of what might be discovered, no parent

will have to lose a child because they couldn't afford healthcare.

Social Security, Medicare, Labor Laws, clean water, clean air, safe food and drugs, and

now expanded healthcare to all Americans; this is what progress looks like. Representative

James Clyburn of South Carolina called this the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century; and I

agree. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


  1. There are many myths about this HC bill that I think many Americans think are true - now that the HC Industry has been halted temporarily from beating their wives - the American people. Jane Hamsher sums up these myths well:

    This bill is not universal, 24 million Americans will continue to remain uninsured - unlike other advanced nations where zero of their citizens are uninsured.

    This bill is almost an exact replica of a plan written by AHIP in 2009 - and since Oct. 30,2009 health care stocks have risen by 28.35% - therefore the HC industry hardly sees it as a threat.

    This bill does not bring down the premiums the Health Care industry can charge significantly, and there is nothing in this bill that will stop HC Industry from raising rates 30% to 40% a year.

    This bill instead of "providing" HC for 31 million new Americans "mandates" they purchase HC insurance.

    Older, less healthy employees with employer based health care will be forced to pay much more in out-of-pocket expenses than they do now.

    Every significant cost control measure was left out of this bill: Public Option, Medicare Buy-In, Drug re-importation, Medicare drug price negotiation, etc.

    Companies like Wal-Mart will not be paying for HC for their employees - this bill will make most Wal-Mart employees qualified for government subsidies - taxpayers will cover most of the HC for Wal-Mart employees.

    Those Americans who are considered "high risk" will have limited access to the "high risk" pool which in this bill starts off underfunded. Only those who have been uninsured for 6 MONTHS will qualify. Only .7% of those without insurance will get coverage.

    This bill does not empower a regulatory body to keep people from being dropped when they're sick. There is no enforcement mechanisms to keep the insurance companies in check.

    Many of the effects of this bill will not take effect until 2014. Adults for example will still be subject to denial of HC based on pre-conditions for the next 4 years.

  2. What do I think of Obama? I think he allowed the Health Insurers to write his bill and then raised his fist in victory.

    That isn't leadership - it's an empty suit.

  3. Medi-Care for all!!!
    Republicans (Fascist) love the new Health Bill.
    The Private Health Insurance Companies are going to make more millions for their CEO's

    Thanks for another awesome Post Bernie

  4. Bernie
    Almost Happy Birthday!
    I guess we can consider the passage of the Health Bill with all its imperfections a present for all of us Democrats/Independents who stuck by President Obama. He has shown himself to be the leader we elected in 2008. We need to continue to support him and his efforts in financial reform, education and especially job opportunities for the many under and unemployed. If we keep challenging him perhaps in years to come we will have the momentum to push for single payer or public option. In the meantime let the naysaying Republicans and their scandalous RNC head Michael Steele self destruct. It may not be as easy as the Republicans think come November. I think the majority of Americans realize that President Obama has the welfare of all Americans in mind. The Republicans stand for nothing and do nothing but criticize and demean our President. I can't believe there isn't a half dozen of them who see how brainwashed and negative their leadership is and don't take a stand for what is right.
    Anyway my good friend we wish you God's blessings and peace during the Easter Week and continue to encourage you to stay healthy and keep writing and sharing your thoughts and prayers.
    Peace and Love
    Steve, Debbie and Coco

  5. You mean the same Obama who plans on opening up off shore oil drilling on several of our American coasts? The same Obama who has yet to close down Guantanamo, or bring our young men and women home from two wars based on lies?

    That Obama you want me to continue to support?

    I'm afraid not.

  6. Whether or not Obama is a problem the republican candidates are definitely not a solution