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HCR – A Crap Sandwich On Wonder Bread

I, like a lot (most?) of the liberals on in the blogosphere is really not happy about the shape that Health Care Reform has taken. One of the hardest things about being an activist is how often you ask for policy that is like a pastrami on rye, and get handed a crap sandwich on Wonder Bread. Sure, you got a sandwich, just not one you asked for or would want to eat.

The need to make progress, even if it is mostly sideways or in a direction that will have to be taken apart is one that we always have to live with. This is especially true when the situation is one like our completely dysfunctional health care system. Millions of our fellow citizens don’t have the basic access that everyone should have. Millions more pay too much for too little and sitting in the middle of this mess like a giant malevolent spider is the Insurance Cartel, sucking money out of the economy at a rate that no other industrialized nation would put up with.

"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"

It looks as though we will pass the watered down (or if you liked drowned) bill that managed to get past the moral cowardice of Senators Lieberman, Nelson and Lincoln. It will contain the enormously asinine penny wise and pound-foolish excise tax, with just enough wiggle room so it will not completely hammer those in Organized Labor who have fought for twenty years and more to keep good health care coverage.

For all its faults (and let’s face it they are legion) the bill does a have a few bright spots. The ending of the pre-existing condition is a major step. By ending this pernicious practice, we make a statement that insurance cannot be denied merely because you are going to be expensive to treat. This is more important than it seems on the surface as also settles the major underlying question that has prevented reform from going forward over the last 15 years, namely is insurance a right or a privilege.

As long as we had to have that question as part of any debate, it complicated things immensely. If there it is a privilege, then the job of getting coverage devolves to the individual, you can exercise your privilege or not, depending on your choice or your means. That is a pretty cold view of things, but then the Republican/Conservative view of the world is pretty cold most of the time.

If, however, it is a right, then it is sole responsibility of the government to handle the covering of the people. This bill with the end of preexisting conditions and the attempt (flawed, guaranteed to fail but an attempt and a goal nonetheless) to cover all citizens ends this debate. From now on, the fight will be along the lines of the famous Oscar Wilde quote “We know what you are; now we are just haggling over price”.

There is another advantage that Democrats will accrue over this bill, which is putting the Republican Party in a box. The most conservative aspects of the Republican base are already talking about repeal of this bill. The (Hair) Club for Growth has already announced it will make repeal a major focus of its spending ins 2010 and 2012.

They are going to insist that Republicans who want their support sign the following pledge:

I hereby pledge to the people of my district/state upon my election to the U.S. House of Representatives/U.S. Senate, to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.

The problem for Republicans in arguing for repeal is they will be arguing for keeping 40 million plus Americans without health insurance. Remember that their big idea for covering people is tax breaks and health savings accounts. Not only does neither of these plans make any damned sense, they are total flops when the economy is in the crapper and people are not making as much money.

Still their Tea-bagging base is going to insist on purity, they have made that clear. So, this flawed, too watered-down bill, will become a stick that the Democrats can beat the Republicans with all year this year and into the 2012 presidential cycle. While it is sometimes hard to appreciate that it is better to have Dems (even weak, compromised and ineffectual Dems) in office instead of Republicans, this will be an issue where the comparison will be stark and clear.

It also has one final benefit, as the Democrats go out and campaign in on this issue they will have their noses rubbed very clearly in the flaws of this compromised compromise. They will be unable to say it is prefect, that it is all that is needed and that will spur the efforts, which are needed to move us to a more rational system of health care delivery.

In the end, there is progress. Not a lot of progress or progress in the directions we were expecting. We have, indeed, been handed a crap sandwich on Wonder Bread, instead of our pastrami on rye. However, in the world of politics, it is better to get any sandwich, then none at all. Now that we have our sandwich it will be time to call the waiter over and explain firmly that this is not what we ordered and he had dammed well better have the kitchen make it over, and make it right.

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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