Why would Congress undertake debate and proceed with an action that is almost certain to fail, wasting time, a mountain of paper, and who knows how much money?
The much balleyhooed repeal of health care will apparently be taken up in the House today, after a week’s delay caused by the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The newly elected Republican majority in the House is pressing forward with this, in spite of the fact that the Democratic controlled Senate won’t pass it, which will effectively kill it. Even if it did manage to come out of Congress, the President would veto it, and the Republicans don’t have anywhere close to the number of votes needed to override the veto.
They are proceeding because they are apparently operating under the impression that “the American people,” whose opinion was expressed by a small plurality of voters in November, want them to proceed.
“The American people” are quite divided on this issue. A clear analysis of the November election would show that to be the case. I don’t think the voters are interested in seeing Congress waste time on a repeal that doesn’t have a chance of passing, and I don’t think that was high on the list of things they wanted to see changed as a result of the outcome of the last election. Actually, the debate will give the Democrats a chance to lay out some of the more positive benefits of the health care bill that have, up to this point, been covered up in the rhetoric. I’m guessing that there will be a shift in the opinion of most Americans once the whole program has been layed out.
There are several provisions of health care reform that are quite popular. One is the provision that requires health insurers to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions, and forbids them from dropping coverage on individuals because of a particular medical condition. Another is the closing of the infamous “doughnut hole” in medicare prescription benefits, a quirk that pushes prescription drug prices for the elderly on fixed incomes up to virtually unaffordable levels. I don’t know if you’d want to become known as the congressman or woman who voted to price Grandma’s prescriptions out of her reach, or to toss her out of the hospital when she was sick.
The proponents of health care reform will also get a chance to point out that there are no “death tribunals” in this bill. In fact, private insurers now often make life or death decisions for their policy holders by determining what they will or won’t cover at any particular point, often using case workers to convince family members not to pursue procedures or treatments that might extend the life of their loved one based on their cost, and the cost of continuing coverage. That practice is eliminated by the current health care reform.
The economy is still the chief issue on the table in Washington right now and I think the message that the voters sent in November was pretty clear. Do something about it. Wrangling over health care just wastes time, and delays any action that Congress might take which would either help the economy recover, or at least modify the circumstances millions of people are facing as a result of it. A futile debate over health care reform is the first step toward another change in the makeup of Congress in 2012.
There is no doubt that the current health care system is broken, and is desperately in need of being fixed. Few people would disagree with that. The disagreement is over how to fix it. The health insurance companies, prescription drug wholesalers and retailers, and some medical delivery systems, including hospital owners, make billions of dollars in profits and have the means to lobby to push things heavily to their advantage. The resolution lies in equalizing that system, and making it fair and equitable for everyone involved. The government’s role is to protect its people from excessive profiteering, not to operate and manage the system. Do that, and you’ll have not only the gratitude of the “American people,” but you’ll have their confidence and they’ll vote for you.