Here’s to our health!
The century-long wait for healthcare reform ended Tuesday when President Obama signed a bill to provide coverage to about 30 million uninsured Americans. The law will begin to end some of the health insurance industry’s worst practices almost immediately.
H.M.O.’s days of denying coverage to people who are already sick and canceling policies after cancer diagnoses are numbered. Parents will soon be able to add their adult children up to age 26 to their policies. Small businesses, which create most of the jobs in this country, will get tax breaks for providing coverage and will also be able to buy into larger, less exorbitant exchanges.
Far from perfect, the law has a good chance to be made better within the next few weeks, when the Senate is expected to enact the same tweaks to the bill that were already approved by the House. One change will end the penalty to New York and other states that are already providing relatively good Medicaid coverage.
A fight for the future is to make sure all Americans will be able to buy a public insurance plan as a way to keep private companies honest.
Tens of thousands in the U.S. die every year because they either have poor or no insurance. That will change.
Although not ideal, the law is a good framework to build upon. Even if Republicans really wanted to, they will never be able to rescind the help to small businesses, or take away the coverage of children with “pre-existing conditions.”
Now that we have a law, it should expose all of the Republican lies and distortions. The Congressional Budget Office’s nonpartisan, conservative estimates said the Democratic plan not only will insure tens of millions more people than the Republican plan, but it will also be far less expensive, reducing our long-term deficits by $138 billion the first 10 years and by more than a trillion the next 10.
There were principled criticisms of the bills, but Republicans seldom gave a voice to them. After negotiating and hinting for months that he could join Democrats and support reform, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa repeated the lie that the bill could “pull the plug on Grandma.” Contrary to G.O.P. talking points, Democrats spoke to Republicans for more than a year and literally adopted hundreds of their amendments and ideas.
One member of Congress heckled Obama during a speech, accusing the president of lying, and another cried out “baby killer,” heckling a House colleague. On Tuesday, Republican Carl Paladino, who is planning to announce his campaign for New York governor in a few weeks, likened the Democrats who passed healthcare to mass murderers, the 9/11 hijackers. Republican leaders were largely silent when their allies showed up at rallies with not-so-veiled threats on the president’s life. It is not surprising that in this overheated atmosphere fostered by Republicans, protestors shouted racist and anti-gay slurs at House Democrats as they walked to cast their vote Sunday.
What happened to the party of Richard Nixon and Bob Dole? As the president and others have pointed out, Obama’s plan bears a striking resemblance to those of former Republican leaders.
Democrats still have much work to do on healthcare and especially jobs, and hopefully the party of Lincoln will return back to its senses and help.