Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thoughts on President Obama Signing Health Care Reform into Law

And just like that, we see a much needed overhaul of our broken health care system become law.

With the stroke of President Obama’s pen, his health care overhaul — the most sweeping social legislation enacted in decades — became law on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama affixed his curlicue signature, almost letter by letter, to the measure, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, surrounded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and a raft of other lawmakers who spent the past year on a legislative roller-coaster ride trying to pass it. Aides said he would pass out the 20 pens he used as mementoes.

The ceremony included two special guests: Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who had been a driving force for health care legislation before his death last year, and Connie Anderson, the sister of Natoma Canfield, the Ohio cancer survivor whose struggle to pay skyrocketing health insurance premiums became a touchstone of Mr. Obama’s campaign to overhaul the system.

Yes, yes, we know the work isn't over yet. Rather, it's just beginning.

The Senate still needs to approve the reconciliation fixes passed in the House on Sunday. We still need to fight the ridiculous lies and distortions coming from the radical right. And yes, we still need to make more fixes to this legislation, such as removing the unfair anti-choice provision hindering many women's abilities to make their own reproductive health care decisions, and adding a public option that will provide another better choice for consumers looking for quality, affordable coverage.

Still, this is quite the momentous occasion. Finally, FINALLY, the framework has been set for universal health care here in America.

And ultimately, The Sun hit the nail on the head in its editorial this morning.

This is a moral issue. Is it right that millions of Americans can’t get proper health care because they lost a job or were denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition like asthma or hypertension? Not that insurance is a cure-all. The number of bankruptcies due to medical bills is up, even for those with insurance.

The current system is broken. It costs Americans more than $2 trillion a year with costs growing at a rate of 7 percent. With the number of uninsured growing, the costs are increasing as well. When the uninsured go to the hospital, the cost of care is passed on to people with insurance through higher premiums and the taxpayers through payments for public hospitals.

The Republicans don’t seem to care. Instead, they have stirred people up and obscured the real issues in the hope they can win an election.

Contrary to what Republicans have said, the proposal in Washington ultimately would provide access to health care to nearly all Americans, including those who have been denied because of pre-existing conditions. The plan would give people who have lost their jobs the ability to buy affordable health insurance and it is expected to reduce many premiums. The legislation also provides relief for people on Medicare from the gap in their prescription coverage referred to as the “doughnut hole.”

And they're right about this.

Still, Republicans say they’ll work to overturn the legislation, and if this isn’t really about politics, shouldn’t they be consistent and work to overturn Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans Affairs, which all provide government-supported health care or insurance? Of course they wouldn’t dare do that. It would affect too many voters.

The times call for political courage. Republicans would be wise to recall the words of Sen. Everett Dirksen, who led the party in the Senate during the 1960s and rallied his party to deliver the needed votes for key civil rights legislation.

“We are confronted with a moral issue,” Dirksen said in a speech to break a filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Today let us not be found wanting in whatever it takes by way of moral and spiritual substance to face up to the issue.”

Indeed. It is time to step up and do the right thing by passing health care reform.

I'd just add that I also want to see more Democrats show more courage in the future by working to make the improvements that I mentioned above. President Obama, Senator Reid, and Representatives Berkley and Titus should all be applauded for their hard work on health care reform and their success in seeing it to the end and passing this historic legislation. I hope they keep up the great work.

And the Republicans? Well, to quote Dina Titus, unless they change course and offer meaningful solutions on health care (and other issues, for that matter), they're f*cked.

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