Saturday, March 20, 2010

D-Day for Health Care Reform in America

The D-Day (as in “Defining-Day”) for health care reform in America arrives tomorrow, Sunday, March 21, 2010. Barack Obama has staked his young presidency on this bill. He will not become a lame-duck president if the bill fails to pass but there is no doubt that his image and effectiveness, at least in the short-term, will take a major hit.

Even among his die-hard supporters are those who feel that the president’s “obsession” with health care has diverted attention from the foremost problem facing America today: loss and lack of jobs. When Americans worry about having a roof over their heads or putting food on the table, seeing a physician becomes a luxury that can temporarily be dispensed with.

Yet there is also no denying that universal health care coverage is a right, not a privilege. Sure, the cost to the economy will be in hundreds of billions of dollars but can we, as a civilized and humane society, allow money and politics to trump what is fundamentally an ethical and moral issue? What kind of society will ours be if insurance companies continue to deny or revoke with impunity (the case of Jerome Mitchell, a 17-year old college freshman from rural South Carolina, is one of thousands of such cases) the coverage of Americans when they are afflicted with life-threatening conditions?

The idea underlying insurance companies is: Grab as much premium as possible from the healthy but exclude those who are sick. This macabre 'survival of the fittest' business model is unacceptable in any civilized society.

Obama’s administration has to bear responsibility for the cliffhanger that the health care bill has become. We Americans abhor serpentine language. We believe that if anything is worth fighting or dying for, we should be able to understand it without having to master the language of lawyers. Yet there has been no coherent explanation by the president or the democrats about why and how the heath care bill makes sense economically, socially and politically. Simply evoking the moral principle has played into the hands of Republicans. Their shrill warning that American capitalism, as we have known it for two hundred years, will die if the health care bill were to pass, has resonated with many fence-sitters simply because Democrats have not matched them in the “easy-to-understand” department. This is particularly ironic given the president’s reputation as a wordsmith and his facility in distilling an issue to its essence in words that can capture the imagination of Americans, as we saw repeatedly during his presidential campaign.

The American most passionate about health care reform was the “Liberal Lion of the Senate,” the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. That his seat is now occupied by a Republican who is against health care reform shows how far the fortune of the Democrats has fallen in a single year.

Yet I believe that tomorrow House Democratic leaders will find 216 votes to make the health care bill the law of the land. Like most Americans, I am a prisoner of hope (especially today, the first day of spring!) and I cannot accept the fact that 216 of our representatives will miss out on this historic milestone that will affirm the right of every American access to health care. It is almost as historic a milestone as the election of an African-American to the highest office in the land, and there will be enough, just enough, votes to see the bill through.


Anonymous said...

Men come, live, work and then leave-the same is true for leaders. But very few leaves behind footprints--that outlive their lives. Obama has done something that can be done by few--a person with a mission to translate a vision into reality and that too within a very short span of time. Only a few, I reckon gave it a fair chance in the beginning
This great turn around will be a landmark that members of the future generations will remember with gratification--will proudly say that their forefathers had the wisdom-sagacity to leave a nation with more opportunities as they would have more time and energy to invest in works that matter a lot to human advancement. The benevolence and fellow feeling are what we miss now more than anything else. Everyone will have a batter chance to live with dignity and good health. May be this could hurt some of the big corporations--the insurers will miss a chance to mint money at the cost of human misery.
Cheers, Hasan--at last you have a President with mission, vision and humane agenda.Ted Kennedy wpuld have been very happy at the attainment of something for which he had been fighting most of his life.

Appreciating Math and its beauty said...

Sajjad, your heartfelt comment is much appreciated. For too long, insurance and drug companies have been minting billions of dollars at the expense of suffering Americans. The tea party movement, led by Sarah Palin among others, is trying to tear the fabric of the nation with its reckless and inhuman agenda. A victory for health care reform is a victory for humanity. With a single bill, Barack Obama has ensured his place in history.

Thank you, again, for your perceptive observations.