March 22, 2012
Last night it passed, and Americans will enter an era where all are entitled to health care. It will now be a right, rather than a privilege.
But a lot of people didn’t want it.
Thirty-four Democrats voted against the bill, but not one Republican voted for it.
Yesterday’s House of Representative debates before the vote were electrifying. R-Ohio Rep John Boehner, minority whip, said, “Hell No!” He said that Congress was not listening to the American people.
Outside the House, there were demonstrators shouting, “Kill the bill!” Police were having trouble keeping them under control.
As Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, who changed his vote from No to Yes yesterday, spoke to the Legislature, a Republican representative from Texas shouted, “Baby killer!” (He says he was referring to the bill, not Stupak, but witnesses didn’t hear it that way.)
When a group of black legislators walked toward the Legislature buildings, people in the crowd loudly called them “niggers.”
Demonstrators called openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, “faggot.”
The great question is – what is making people so angry? What, exactly, are they opposing? We are all human. We all get sick. Our families get sick. We all need help. Wouldn’t most of us like to know that to some degree, we are covered?
Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to rule people out (or charge them more) based on pre-existing conditions. Insurers won’t be able to terminate our insurance if we get sick, or deny us benefits at will. The opinions of the doctors, not the insurance company, will now prevail. There will be no more maximum caps on health care for people with serious illness. Why is there such fury opposing this?
Yes, there are additional taxes, and for the wealthier among us, health care and taxes will be higher. The people demonstrating so adamantly in DC last night didn’t look wealthy, but I guess you can’t tell by looking.
There’s a lot to think about. All employers and all individuals will be required to carry health care insurance. If they don’t get it, they will be fined. If you are too poor, you will receive a subsidy. This will result in billions of dollars in new insurance premiums, which will benefit the insurance companies. The health care law will cost some jobs, from employers who can’t afford it, and create many more jobs. It is impossible to predict the full effects of this legislation. All that can be predicted with confidence is that fewer Americans will suffer needlessly or die prematurely.
The timing of this vote took place during a special political moment in time, made possible by the abysmal domestic job* done by the previous administration and the low quality of the slate they ran in the last election. Quite logically, Americans voted in a Democrat for President, and a bloc of Democratic Senators and Representatives, offering Democrats an opportunity to accomplish their fifty-year goal of providing health care for everyone. The Democrat voting advantages in the House and Senate combined with the determination and overall excellence of President Obama and his staff, made it possible to pass legislation attempted by every Democratic administration starting with Harry Truman.
Even George Bush Sr. made health care for all a priority. He saw the disparity, recognized the emergency, and bravely talked about it. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance.
When Obama and Biden appeared briefly after the vote, Obama looked like he hadn’t slept in days. His TV make-up didn’t quite cover an ashen complexion. Biden, who had fought for health care reform for the last eight years, was fighting tears, and his normally perfect white hair formed a cowlick that stuck out at right angles from behind his left ear.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said that now, “Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.”*
Geraldo Rivera, ethnic minority left-wing pet of Fox news, came into his own. His tone was gleeful, in contrast to the long faces of the other Fox newscasters, as he cheerfully enumerated the immediate and long-term benefits of new legislation. Maybe Fox will fire him. He was just too happy.
Today, The Day After, the stock market showed a brief drop at opening, but recovered, closed up 43 points. “I guess all the anxiety about health care reform has settled down,” said a news commentator.
In the moments leading up to last night’s vote, the public could see clearly that Republicans championed the rich and powerful and Democrats put the needs of the majority of us first. The same positions were reflected in the past when the Republicans opposed both Social Security AND Medicare.
There are many of us in the privileged classes who fight like hell to hang on to our advantages while the uninsured languish in physical pain and illness that can be relieved. We’d rather give away billions of dollars to shore up the economies of foreign countries or spend trillions to perpetuate a useless war, than to address domestic needs, especially if they affect our personal pocketbooks.
* Let’s not even talk about the international debacles.
**A news staffer pointed out that a history of domestic violence victimization, or having had a baby by Caesarean, are currently classified by insurers as pre-existing conditions.
Follow-up: It looks as if the majority of the states are filing protests to the bill on the basis that it violates states’ rights. Unfortunately, this includes my state, Washington, where the opposition was filed by the AG. I never before understood why it was important to be aware of the politics of an attorney general. I thought they just carried out the rule of law. Silly me. I voted for the guy.
This morning, as I was being stabbed for blood by a tech, I asked her what she thought of the new health care program. She said, “I’m afraid of what it will do to me when I’m old and can’t afford insurance.” Oy.