Monday, March 22, 2010


Historic Vote?

By Reginald Johnson
March 22, 2010

After what was said to be a momentous weekend in American history, all I can say is this: it wasn’t so momentous.

The backers of the health insurance reform bill passed by the House Sunday said the legislation was “historic” and a great step forward. Supporters like Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the vote to approve the bill to the moment in 1965 when Medicare was passed or to the time in the 1930s when Social Security was approved.

Please, please. The measure OKed by the House is in no way nearly as strong or as sweeping as Medicare or Social Security. Those programs have stood the test of time for decades, and hundreds of millions of people have benefited.

I doubt seriously hundreds of millions of people will really benefit from this plan, if the bill is finally approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama. Some people on the lower end of the income scale, not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid and not wealthy enough to buy health insurance on their own, will benefit by getting government assistance to buy a plan. But there’s no option to buy a government plan, like Medicare. They’ll have to buy coverage from private health insurance companies, which offer, as we all know, weak policies.

Then for the bulk of the population --- loosely defined as the middle class --- the bill does nothing. No government aid, because you make too much to be eligible. No control on health insurance rates. It is a fact that a majority of the people who have filed for bankruptcy due to health care costs are people who had health insurance.

The new law will actually do harm, in the view of Dr. Margaret Flowers, a leader of the group Physicians for a National Health Care Plan, which has pushed for a single-payer program. Vast sums of government money will be turned over to private corporations to help them provide plans for those qualifying for assistance. This guarantees that high profits will continue to roll in for insurance carriers. There’s little, if any sacrifice demanded here from the Aetnas and Blue Crosses of the world.

“This bill further cements the privatization of health care, further enriches the industries that are the problem,” Flowers said in a statement Sunday.

Flowers said the action to approve the Obama plan actually pulls us further away from getting what we really need, a Medicare-for- all, single- payer plan. I think that’s right, and it’s very regrettable, because in the long-run, single payer is the only way to go.

One other thing about the weekend: the behavior by Tea Partiers was a disgrace. Tea Party members were at the Capitol to protest the health care bill, because they think it creates too much big government. Boy, have they got that wrong.

As inaccurate as that view is, they’re entitled to their opinion. But it is unacceptable for people to hurl racial and anti-gay insults at congressmembers as they walked into the Capitol to work on the bill. That’s what some Tea Party members did, directing their venom at the likes of civil rights hero John Lewis of Georgia and Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

If the Tea Party people want to vent about big government and the unfairness of the economic system, I don’t have a problem. I understand their frustration.

But if they want to act racist, homophobic, or hint at the need for violence, they’ve really lost me. This kind of thing has to be roundly condemned.

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