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Saruman’s Voice

March 13, 2010

Featured Article

We’re coming  to the wire on health care reform and it’s time for all hands to get into the game. On Friday, my wife called our Cabell County congressman’s office, Nick Jo Rahall, to urge him to vote for the health care bill coming up in the house next week and opponents had so far outnumbered those in favor. That’s the Tea Party illuminati in action. Get the progressive vote in action in response.

Call your Congressional rep’s office today to urge their support of health car reform. For a full list of congressional names and phone numbers, go to Congress.org. Type in your rep’s name and it’ll pop up an information page that includes a phone contact. Don’t know who your representative is? Enter your zip code and it will tell you.

There is no arguing with those whose views on this bill (and Obama) have been fixed in fear and loathing, through being Fox-ified, Becked and Limbaughed. Some have said Fox News is the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. But it’s more correct to say Fox is the PR department of unbridled, unregulated corporate power. The contemporary GOP is just Saruman’s voice whose concealed message mouths the anthem of its corporate masters, “Bottom Line Uber Alles.” If you want a shorthand for how Republicans view your health care troubles, Steven Pearlstein has it:

The most important thing Republicans think is that if there are Americans who can’t afford the insurance policies that private insurers are willing to offer, then that’s their problem — there’s nothing the government or the rest of us should do about it….That was their clear message Thursday [at the White House health care summit]. It was their message during all those years when their party controlled Congress and the White House and they did nothing and said nothing about the plight of the uninsured. And it is clear that they would continue to do nothing if, by some miracle, Democrats were to drop their plan or embark on a more modest approach. For Republicans, the uninsured remain invisible Americans, out of sight and out of mind.

But some on the Left oppose the bill, too, or may be tempted to sit back and not urge their congresspeople and friends to support it as it is not an ideal bill. They must take into account the fundamental reforms right out of the box with this bill. Then be aware of the history of all  momentous social legislation, which has often begun with significant baby steps, then changed everything over time. As Kevin Drum writes at his Mother Jones blog:

Look at virtually every other advanced economy in the world. They started off with small programs and grew them over time. Germany spent over a century getting to universal healthcare. France started after World War II and didn’t finish until 1999. In Canada, national healthcare started in Saskatchewan in 1946, spread to the other provinces over the next couple of decades, and became Medicare in 1984. The trend here is pretty obvious: once people get a taste of universal healthcare, they like what they see and they don’t stop until the job is finished.

But the United States is different! Fine. Take a look at social programs in the United States. Social Security provided meager benefits and only modest coverage when it was first passed. Over the course of the next 40 years it became a full-fleged universal pension plan. Medicare passed in 1965 with a limited payment structure and has been improved ever since. Prescription drug coverage wasn’t added until 2003. You see a similar direction for things like federal home loan programs, civil rights measures, S-CHIP, gay rights, and practically every other social program ever passed. Progress is uneven, and sometimes even goes backward, but the general trend is pretty clear.

Once healthcare reform is passed, everyone will breathe a sigh of relief and move on to other issues. Republicans will huff and puff, but they don’t have the votes to overturn it and they know it. (Why do you think they’re resisting it so rabidly? They know perfectly well that entitlement programs practically never go away once they’ve been passed.) Then, down the road, future congresses will start to make changes. Maybe a Medicare buy-in. Maybe bigger subsidies. Maybe a public option outside of Medicare. It won’t happen overnight, but within 20 or 30 years the current bill will almost certainly turn into de facto national healthcare. It’s likely to be based on private health insurers in some way, but that’s how they do it in Germany and the Netherlands too, and it works fine. Eventually it’ll work fine here too.

For those who argue the bill is watered-down and flawed, here is Drum’s “nickel summary” of what it will bring into being, which is far, far better than the mess we have now:

  • Insurers have to take all comers.  They can’t turn you down for a preexisting condition or cut you off after you get sick or lose your job.
  • Community rating.  Within a few broad classes, everyone gets charged the same amount for insurance.
  • A significant expansion of Medicaid.
  • Subsidies for low and middle income workers that keeps premium costs under 10% of income.
  • Limits on ER charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients.
  • Mandates minimum levels of coverage.
  • Caps on out-of-pocket expenses.
  • A broad range of cost-containment measures.
  • A dedicated revenue stream to support all this.

Pass the bill. And Yes, the Heathcare Bill Really Pays for Itself.



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