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It was indeed a historic moment when the health care reform bill passed the House of Representatives, simply because corporate opposition and right-wing hysteria have always kept it from getting that far.
It was President Harry Truman who first tried to institute universal health care. His plans were defeated by the American Medical Association, which trotted out some alleged quote from Lenin about the glories of “socialized medicine.”
Only Lyndon Johnson’s personal talent for persuasion, and a Democratic Congress at his bidding, was able to overcome the same kind of ranting in the 1960s when Medicare and Medicaid passed.
Bill and Hillary Clinton had their hearts in the right places in the 1990s, but they put forward a dubious, complicated plan while naively underestimating the power of the insurance lobby to defeat it.
This time, Barack Obama, who had made it clear during his successful campaign for president that he intended to pursue health care reform, left it to the Congress to craft a plan.
The result was not single payer, which many of us want and which all the other Western industrialized nations have without either financial disaster or communistic “takeover.” But what passed the House and is now before the Senate is certainly better than nothing. It’s a step in the right direction.
If it becomes law, insurance companies will finally get at least some of the regulation they deserve. They’ll no longer be allowed to deny coverage because of “pre-existing conditions.”
All but the smallest businesses will be required to offer health insurance to their employees, and Americans will be required to get it. That makes the “public option,” a government-operated plan that won’t be as expensive as private premiums, a real necessity.
Unfortunately, it’s the public option that has drawn the most opposition from those whose only goal is to defend the insurance industry. No one stands out more in this role than Senators Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman, both known for their slavish devotion to insurance companies.
Lieberman, in particular, is not fooling anybody. He’s not about to oppose the insurance industry that has made Hartford, Conn., its home field. What a shame that he can’t do what’s right for the American people.
Senator Chuck Schumer was correct when he said recently that not passing a bill of some sort simply isn’t an option. Given the attitude of people such as Lieberman, the public option may not make it in the final bill. But some kind of reform will certainly pass.
Two other final points: One, Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello deserves a great deal of credit for having the guts to vote for the bill. His decision has already spurred the predictable reactions from those who miss Virgil Goode’s drawl and his right-wing politics. But even if it costs him his seat, Perriello did the right thing.
The second point is this: Modern conservatives have demonstrated that they simply have no real principles or decency left when it comes to opposing the agenda of President Obama. Whether it’s screaming and disrupting town hall meetings, or waving “Go Back to Kenya” signs at their tea party rallies, the right has behaved in a totally shameful way in this health care debate.
More lies have been told about health care reform than about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Hopefully, the American people will remember this next year when mid-term Congressional elections are held.
Corporations run this country; they have ever since industrialization took hold. But now and again progress is made when the people demand change and they get a leader who can deliver it. The president will do that when he signs a health care reform bill sometime next year.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a member of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee, and can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.