As I write this column Tuesday morning, most Democrats are celebrating and seemingly all Republicans are complaining about the health-care reform bill President Obama signed into law today.
The scope of health-care reform is not as sweeping as many hoped it would be, but considering how difficult it has been for previous presidents to get such legislation passed, the new law is a good start.Yes, the cost of overhauling health care is high. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will cost an estimated $940 billion over 10 years. It also is expected to take a political toll on at least some members of Congress who voted in favor of the measure.
Even so, I think those who voted in favor of health-care reform ultimately will be vindicated by history. I don’t think there is a politician today who would vote to get rid of Medicare or Social Security, and those programs are equally expensive and were equally attacked when they were proposed (and ultimately enacted) years ago.
There always is aversion to change. The level of aversion increases accordingly with the amount of change being proposed – or the amount of change it costs to implement it.
But set aside the money issue for a moment. Don’t you think it is better for America as a whole when 95 percent of its citizens have health-care coverage in 2014, as opposed to the 83 percent who do today? Isn’t it better that insurance companies won’t be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions? Isn’t it better to have more insurance plan choices?
If you agree these things are improvements to our health-care system, you must accept that such changes come with a price tag. And if you don’t think the government needs to be spending so much money, perhaps it is time to look elsewhere to cut spending instead of continuing to look the other way when our fellow citizens can’t get health-care coverage – something that all hard-working, decent Americans deserve to have.
The health-care reform bill is not perfect, and I never expected it would be. But Medicare and Social Security aren’t perfect either, and there is always talk about fixing those programs, not doing away with them completely. Decades from now, that probably will be the case with health care, too.
That doesn’t mean the bill shouldn’t be tweaked and made better. I won’t pretend to have all the answers to what ails the new health-care law, but I know it can be improved. People should contact their legislators and let them know what changes they think should be made.
For those who think the new health-care law will be overturned simply by loudly complaining about it, I suggest turning that anger/frustration into a positive force by suggesting changes that actually might be made – say, removing a particular provision (or adding one) rather than expecting the government to suddenly flip a switch and decide not to implement any of the health-care changes after all.
Many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, apparently think the flip-a-switch approach is feasible, calling on constituents to vote out Democrats so the bill can be repealed. But trust me, this strategy won’t work. The Republicans would need a 60-vote majority in the Senate before they could even attempt to repeal the law, and that isn’t likely to happen before the law fully takes effect in 2014.
And once people are given something they really want – 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured will get health-care coverage – it is difficult to take it away from them without consequences. I can’t imagine the GOP taking that political risk.
Instead, everyone – Democrats and Republicans – should focus on getting health-care reform right the first time, because like Medicaid and Social Security, nobody is going to want their health-care program taken away years from now when the political warfare over it dies down.
The key, however, is getting it right.
The bill signed into law Tuesday seems to be a move in the right direction.
This column was originally published in the March 25 edition of Ottawa Delivered.