The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so says the ancient Chinese proverb. The vote for health care reform Saturday night is, I believe, just a first step. Where the next thousand miles takes us is still an open question. I must admit to a nagging sense of trepidation that the bill passed was such a watered down version of what is truly needed that it could be counterproductive in the long run.
On the other hand, I feel that if something positive is done now, it sets in place a line of forward progress from which retreat is less likely. One of the most beneficial features in the House's bill is the ban on pre-existing conditions. Another beneficial beachhead is the simple notion that the government needs to be in the business of ensuring human rights to its citizens.
In some distant year, will citizens still complain that we, as a nation, have a dysfunctional health care system? Will the cause of that dysfunction be seeds that were planted by this legislation, or will it be merely the playing out of an intractable greed-fueled status quo which stigmatizes the U.S. as an outlier, vis-a-vis the world, in matters of health care?
President Obama has won an important victory for his agenda, but the House's product seems greatly diminished by its comparison to Candidate Obama's lofty campaign rhetoric on the issue of health care.
I remain hopeful that something will emerge from the legislative Cuisinart which can be seen as true progress, rather than a simple fig leaf to distract people who feel real pain and financial consequences from the current system. If Obama's push to simply get a bill on his desk by some target date is the sum and substance of his once-lofty goals, I feel he may be back in the community organizing business come January 2013.
Hope springs from the knowledge that nothing, absolutely nothing, would have been done without Obama's push and the sense of possibility inherent in majority control of government. But hope alone won't address greed-bloated insurance costs. Hope alone won't lessen the catastrophe of medically induced bankruptcies, which now account for the majority of personal bankruptcies in this country. Hope alone won't let us join the rest of the industrialized world which treats health care as a right of citizenship rather than a commodity doled out by a sacrosanct marketplace.
As I said, I remain hopeful a bill of real substance will make it to the President's desk. I remain hopeful that Evan Bayh, when the Senate takes up this legislation, will surprise me by proving that he is, in fact, a Democrat.
But someone who is less sanguine about the future of health care in America is the estimable Dennis Kucinich, of Cleveland, he cast a principled NO vote Saturday. This link lays out his compelling reasons why.
Me? I'm still hoping.