Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Another Word about Healthcare and the Common Good
It’s not dark yet. The House of Representatives has passed, and the president has signed into law a new bill on healthcare. For this, I am glad. At the first of the year, I was advocating that we go back to the drawing board on this one. In my blog posting for January 2 I said “the amalgam of ideas masquerading on the Hill as healthcare reform should be scrapped. It makes much more sense to extend Medicare to all... The current legislative proposal seems to favor the insurance companies, just as the financial 'bailout' only favored the banks, and Medicare reform favored the pharmaceutical companies.”
I didn’t like the fact that the bill had been watered down to accommodate Republican interests, only to get no Republican votes. I didn’t like the fact that so many special deals were added to gain the vote of some Democratic congressmen who lacked the courage of any conviction other than the desire to be re-elected. It reminded me of how much the process stinks.
Even so, I am greatly relieved that this bill has passed. It is not a perfect bill by any stretch of the imagination. I also realize that there is still work to do in the senate, and there is opposition from several fronts, but it is my hope that the bill signals a turning point in our commitment to the common good.
A Society that Works
I began that entry on January 2 by stating what, in my view, makes for a society that works:
1. Access to education
2. Access to transportation
3. Access to healthcare
If everyone in every strata of society has access to these three things, we all benefit. We are divided in the United States on how to achieve these big three. On the one hand are those who say that the only way to achieve the common good is for all to work together in community. Then there are those who say, “I worked hard for my college degree, my BMW and my Blue Cross coverage. If others want it they should work hard too.” So many of us are so afraid that some undeserving person may get some relief, that we turn our backs on the widespread suffering and poverty that exists right here among us. Too many have been willing to partition themselves off from the needy and the working poor in an effort to not have to deal with the problem. Others are waging a crusade against injustice. Then there are those who realize that everyone benefits by living in a society that works to the benefit of all.
But Why Should the Government Do It?
“The government has absolutely no business getting involved in healthcare.” My own Southern democratic father uttered words similar to this back in 1965 when Medicare was passed. I think it was a dark day for him. However, no one was happier with Medicare when he and my mother became eligible. He had never dreamed that he would have been able to afford the medical interventions that added quality years to his life. Those were pivotal years when Medicare, Medicaid, and Civil Rights legislation were passed. The social landscape was changed for the better. President Lyndon Johnson knew that those “Great Society” measures were not smart politically, but that they were good for the country. He made the statement when Civil Rights legislation passed due to his constant behind the scenes working of the process, “We (democrats) have lost the South for the next generation.” He was right, those southern dixiecrats all eventually moved to the Republican Party. But he was also right in pushing for that massive legislation. I must confess that as a child of the South growing up in the 1960s, I did not have a favorable view of LBJ. Looking back, however, I am more and more impressed by his political courage in choosing the right thing over the expedient thing. [Side note: I also realize that LBJ totally missed it on Viet Nam – what can I say, he was a complicated man]
What does all of this mean for the healthcare bill that passed this week? It is not dark yet, my friend. For those who, like me, wanted a public option – or even Medicare for all – this is at least a starting point that will set us toward a more civil society. For those who have feared and vehemently opposed this bill, relax. Do not let fear be your guide. One day you will likely come to appreciate this measure just as much as my father came to appreciate Medicare. We have yet to see how smart this is politically, but any step toward improving the common good is a step in the right direction. As you can see, my sense is that it is definitely not dark yet.