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House passes healthcare reform bill

Posted on November 8th, 2009 in Health by Robert Miller

Last night was a historic moment for the House of Representatives! They passed their version of the healthcare reform bill with a public option. There are some hurdles to clear in the Senate, particularly with Lieberman, but I expect those issues will be resolved and that a bill with a public option will go to the Senate floor for a vote. When this will happen isn’t clear, but momentum is gaining and all the scare tactics used by Republicans have gone for naught. A significant majority of American voters in virtually every poll taken in the past few weeks, endorse healthcare reform with a public option, though the nature of the public option is critical, and we don’t yet know what it will look like.  Will it give serious competition to private health insurance companies and will both houses ban anti-trust protection from the health insurance industry? The Washington Post has published a voting table which shows how every Representative voted, the amount of money they have received from the healthcare industry and the percentage of voters in their district that do not have health insurance. Take Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri for example. He, along with every other Republican but one, voted against the healthcare bill. He has received more than $2 million in financial support from the healthcare industry and has nearly 20% of the citizens in his district that do not have health insurance. Contrast that with Xavier Bacerra, a Democrat from California. He received more than a $ million from the healthcare industry, has more than 42% of his constituents without health insurance in his district and voted “yes” on the healthcare reform bill. Bacerra seems to have gotten his cake and ate it too.

Unfortunately, this was a close vote and there were far too many Democrats who voted against the bill that are often classified as “Bluedog Democrats,” claiming to be concerned about costs. Don’t kid yourself, these are corporatist, statist Democrats who don’t give a damn about spending. There are many examples even in the healthcare bill where they voted for the more expensive option (negotiated rates with doctors (more expensive) vs paying Medicare rates (less expensive).  For them, their conservative cover of spending allows them to vote for core issues of Republicans. Indeed, as a group, they are just as ideologically driven as the Republicans. These are the people we have to get rid of to established a truly progressive healthcare bill in the future. But, eliminating them has to be done in the primaries, with a targeted effort to raise money and create a more liberalized Congress, one that will reflect what the American people are advocating through the polling data of the last few years. We are not a country right of center, if indeed we ever were; we are today a country that is much more progressive than the composition of the House and Senate would indicate. It’s time for the Democratic party to begin thinking about cleaning its own house. For truly progressive legislation, such as a single-payer health care bill, essential if we are ever going to strip health insurance away from our place of employment, we will need a more progressive composition in the house and Senate. For 2010, we need to pay attention to the Democratic Primaries and watch for people like Representative Alan Grayson from the 8th District of Florida; he has become a leader in challenging the Republicans for their position on healthcare reform (he has opened up a website where the names of those who died from lack of health insurance since January of this year are tabulated). Hopefully our activism has been ignited by this bill and we can begin to adopt a more national process of healing the Democratic Party so that people know what it stands for–not for everything–but for a truly progressive legislative agenda. We should take a page out of Eleanor Roosevelt’s activism, where she pointed out that electing good people is one thing, but getting them to do what you want takes door to door, block to block organizational efforts. Her idea for full employment during the depression? Hire enough competent teachers and pay them a good livable wage with a teacher to student ratio of five. That would give us the improvements we needed in education and a full employment economy.

“Where once a mighty river flowed, today I see a stream

It’s safe to cross and wander on to build a better dream

A dream  keeps coming back to me, about a better world,

within that world, a country whole, whose flag becomes unfurled.”

(unknown poet reassured by the loss of power held by the Republicans, reportedly composed while in a dream state)


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