So while the cat’s away, the mice will play. Monumental events seem happen while I have vacated the family abode to seek adventure and peace at some other location. This time, it appears as if the United States of America will finally get health care reform enacted by their dysfunctional Congress. Don’t tell me that miracles never happen.
This bill is far from perfect. At best, it can be considered a “template” for a future fleshing out of a truly universal health care system. But the drama and anxiety of the last fourteen months in trying to design and implement a program of decent and affordable health care has been trying. This is because of the overwhelming partisanship of our government and political parties. The forest got lost from the trees in an effort of each political bloc to zap the other. The overriding goal has not been to help the American people. Rather, the aim has been to destroy the current administration and set the stage for the opposition to regain power in November. Although HCR will finally become a reality, the battle has been misguided, distorted and above all, dragged down by ideology that encompasses way too broad a platform of issues.
For example, this bill has been used to present a solution to our culture wars, i.e. abortion. The abortion issue will rage on, but it is a mistake to use HCR as the instrument to confirm or repeal the Hyde Amendment. Even though this amendment was passed 34 years ago, it must be renewed every year. As much as Bart Stupak is trying to railroad any health care bill, his efforts to tie its passage to certain prohibitory abortion language is consistent. The Hyde Amendment disallows the use of federal funds for abortions. Our current attempts to pass HCR should not be used to overturn the Hyde ruling. That should be done separately in a concerted effort of new legislation. Of course the directives of HCR will get distorted and twisted if they are tied to other inflammatory agendas. HCR is not a mechanism for overruling the Hyde Amendment and its passage will become difficult the more it is connected, or made dependent, on, the abortion issue.
Similarly, another subterfuge in passing HCR is the illegal immigration issue. Even after HCR is enacted, there still will be 20 million people without medical coverage. These people will still show up at emergency rooms and cause our hospitals and agencies to cover the cost of their illnesses. Almost all of these 20 million people are illegal immigrants. The problem lies not in the ultimate practice of treating these people, but in allowing them access to our country in the first place. The fact that our borders are so open to illegal entry is the underlying problem. Once they are here, we have the humanitarian obligation to treat them for their illnesses. So the illegal immigration issue is the culprit also for sandbagging our health reform.
This HCR is not a salvo for all that ails us. Certainly it cannot and will not finalize a policy on abortion or illegal immigration. Furthermore, the fact that our private insurance companies are legally a monopolistic industry (the only other legal monopoly in the United States is major league baseball.) is a disgrace and should be overturned so that we can have real competition to foster cost savings and quality of care. These are issues that must be taken up in our halls of Congress separately from HCR. But they are hot-button issues, so many politicians have used them, “attached” them, to criticize and block the path for HCR. I am not falling for that. Abortion and illegal immigration are huge issues by and of themselves and must be dealt with responsibly and fully based on their own importance.
As Nancy Pelosi said, this HCR has been fourteen months of “heavy lifting”. Each and every step towards its passage has been rife with ancillary, although relevant, sidebars. Focus is not the strongest attribute of our lawmakers, as they use the legislative process to muddy the waters in an effort to customize the proposed legislation for their own personal and career-building ends.
In this regard of focus, President Obama has been the mainstay of health reform, especially and finally during this last month. I stand by my President in his tunnel vision for this reform, and offer thanks to Nancy Pelosi for delivering the votes.
Hopefully, we will have wonderful news on Sunday. This initial round of HCR will not be perfect. In fact, it will be far from it. But it will be a start. Many more areas are also in need of “heavy lifting“, such as abortion rights, illegal immigration and the antitrust status of our insurance industry. However, these items must be tackled in the same laborious way that HCR was. Governing is not easy, but can be streamlined a bit by addressing each issue separately. Otherwise, as we have almost witnessed, every major piece of legislation has the great potential of going down the drain. Thus, our government will get nothing done and our nation and its people will be forever stuck in a no-man’s land of non-action and legislative paralysis.
Agenda by agenda, item by item, step by step. If HCR passes, it will truly be a monumental victory of the greater good over individual wants. We are on the cusp, the verge, of something so overdue and necessary for the well-being of our nation and our people. HCR just might be the prime example of not allowing the side issues to derail a major piece of legislation. I do not realistically believe, although I can still hope, that the enactment of HCR will open a floodgate of new legislation. Each and every proposal has to be fought on its own merits and encompass tons of hard work. Nothing is easy. Not the GOP’s use of fear nor some Democrat’s strict adherence to purity of principle will ultimately block passage of this bill. While the focus often became diverted, the guts of the reform remained intact.
Life is hard, oftentimes a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, we must persevere and stay on course. The significance of a HCR bill is not only rewarding for all the hard work that has gone into it, but also deeply meaningful in its implications for future legislation. Bon Jovi says it best:
Can this optimistic event, the passage of health care reform, actually happen? I think we are only one or two votes away from saying “Yes”: the GOP is out of diversionary tactics, the Democratic purists are seeing the light, and the financial markets are 80% sure that this bill will pass. If this unprecedented positive event takes place when I am on vacation, as did so many negative ones during my prior trips, I may never go home again. I am holding my breath until Sunday. Let the mice play.
Tags: abortion legislation, Bart Stupak, HCR passage, Hyde Amendment, illegal immigration effect on health care, insurance industry antitrust status, issue-specific legislation, Nancy Pelosi "heavy lifting", partisanship