Health Reform: Is Bi-Partisan Action Possible?
When I see it, I’ll believe it. Well, we saw it this week: bi-partisan action to fix our healthcare system. But, it was NOT on Thursday, February 25, when President Obama convened Democrats and Republicans to discuss health reform. That was political theater. Real bi-partisan action took place the day before, on February 24, when the House of Representatives voted to strip health insurers’ of their anti-trust exemption which they have enjoyed since 1945.
FACT: IT WAS AN OVERWHELMING, BI-PARTISAN MAJORITY VOTE OF 406 TO 19!!!
Wednesday’s (2/24/10) Action in the House of Representatives
I am an advocate for effective, bi-partisan health reform that can be accomplished by breaking the large problem into smaller, manageable parts. The viability of this approach was demonstrated by Wednesday’s vote to repeal the exemption from federal anti-trust laws. Certain partisan obstructionists tried to stop it—for example, Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) opposed the measure. Yet, there was constructive Republican leadership from Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Virginia) who encouraged Republicans to support the measure, which they did overwhelmingly. It the end, it’s not about right vs. left; it’s about right vs. wrong. In this case, doing what is “right” for the American people prevailed.
Thursday’s (2/25/10) Summit Meeting at Blair House
On the other hand, yesterday’s bi-partisan summit to discuss health reform, convened by President Obama, was mostly for show. The President’s supposedly new, health reform proposal, which was announced on Monday, is more of the same. The President’s plan mirrors the existing legislation with one addition: a new federal government agency to regulate health insurance premiums. The President is not unaware of the role currently played by State Insurance Departments, but I guess he thinks the Federal Government will do it better. Though the Summit was marked by partisan rancor, I believe that the Republicans demonstrated that they are not obstructionists and that they support viable steps to reform health care that do not spend the country into oblivion.
Where Do We Go From Here?
First, encourage your Senators to take action on the bill passed in the House this week. The Senate should pass similar legislation to remove the health insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption and SEND A BILL TO THE PRESIDENT’S DESK FOR SIGNATURE.
From an overall policy perspective, bi-partisan action to reform healthcare is not impossible—we should focus on those aspects of health reform on which reasonable people agree (see After Massachusetts: NOW WHAT?) From a political perspective, it’s much more difficult because so many of our elected representatives believe that partisanship is more important that serving the best interests of the American people.
Yet, the House of Representatives proved on Wednesday that bi-partisanship is possible, but it’s only a small first step. I encourage you to send your Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, the following message—start over and pass meaningful health reform NOW (as demonstrated in the House of Representatives) or pay the price at the polls in November.