President Obama’s long awaited health insurance reform passed the House last night. It will, I think, come to define his presidency, something upon which even the nay-sayers will likely agree. But I think they and the GOP in general are as wrong about Obama as they were about the health insurance reform. Obama ran on healthcare reform, and Obama delivered.
The teabagging idiots—what else can you say about someone who holds up a sign that says “Keep the government out of my Medicare!”—may not be a spent political force, but this process was extraordinarily useful in bringing their views into the sunshine. When members of the Black Caucus can’t walk to the house without being harassed to the point of needing police escort, you get a pretty good flavor for who opposition is. Lest you think I paint with too broad a brush, what was the Sarah Palin and GOP rants about “Death Panels” early in the healthcare insurance reform debate? Today’s GOP is a party bereft of substantial intellectual leadership, infested with extremist refuseniks, and against the majority of public sentiment on the issues (gay rights, immigration, etc.) that the future looks somewhat dim (despite the strong likelihood of picking up some seats, as is historically the case for the “out” party, during the upcoming midterms).
Certainly not all of the GOP exists on this lunatic fringe, but their party is increasingly defined that way. Sen. Scott Brown, the recent victor in Massachusetts, took great pains to not even mention his party affiliation. That, along with facing a dreadful Democratic opponent—a candidate so poor she wouldn’t even go out to shake hands with prospective voters—led to his surprise victory. Teabagger activists might like to claim victory, but the truth is that Brown is not one of them and certainly didn’t campaign as one of them. As I’ve written before, if the Democrats field a competent candidate, they win. Unfortunately, this is the Democrats we’re talking about, and no matter how difficult the task of screwing something up might be, the Demos are up for the challenge.
Nevertheless, they pulled healthcare insurance reform from the brink and made it a reality, an impressive act of political will that deserves a fair amount of credit. And on its merits, I’m not sure what the GOP will complain about. The bill:
- Closes the Medicare “donut hole”
- Allows adult children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance plans
- Extends coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans
- Reduces deficits to the tune of $138 billion over 10 years (according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office)
- Bans insurance companies from charging more to women
- Bars insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions
- Bars insurance companies from imposing lifetime caps on coverage
- Bars insurance companies from denying coverage when people get sick
- Makes all Medicare preventative services free to beneficiaries
Indeed, this morning the GOP’s complaints seem not to be about the bill, but the process. Mitt Romney called the bill “an historic usurpation of the legislative process,” which may say more about his understanding of Congress than anything else, ut at least we agree about the “historic” part. Sen. John McCain was even more vague in his denunciations: “…outside the Beltway, the American people are very angry. They don’t like it, and we’re going to repeal this.” I don’t think the American people will be nearly so angry—if they are; personally I’m euphoric—once they begin to derive the healthcare benefits from the bill.
In short, this is a great step forward in this country’s attempt to meet its moral obligation to provide healthcare services to all its citizens. That is also how I think history will judge it.