Health Reform…to be or not to be…yes!

I’d nearly given up, and thought health reform just wasn’t going to happen in my lifetime. Then, the reform train started moving again, with a lurch, and then with a frontal assault from President Obama and his team. Over the weekend, the outcome hung in the balance. I was glued to CSPAN Sunday night, along with millions of other people. Events of the night were a living civics lesson about how a bill goes through the House after being approved by the Senate last December. It seemed like it took forever for all the House members to speak, some eloquently. Steny Hoyer (D, MD) said that our bodies may fail us, but our neighbors don’t have to, referring to responsibility of the larger community to support health reform. When it came time for Bart Stupak (D, Mich), the room was electric as he agreed to support the legislation.

Sunday night, as The News & Observer reported, the Senate-passed bill cleared the house on a 219-212 vote. A second, smaller measure-making changes in the first-cleared the House shortly before midnight and was sent to the Senate, where Democratic leaders said they had the votes necessary to pass it quickly (after the President signs the legislation). The vote was 220-211.

When President Obama signs the landmark legislation, 32 million or so people without insurance will be accorded the right to coverage. Quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., last weekend, Representative Patrick Kennedy said, Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane. From my perspective, this legislation is not about being Democratic or Republican (although the votes came down mostly to party lines), but about being a society that is fair and just, a humane society.

Too many people become bankrupt because of catastrophic health events. That should not happen in America. Too many people are denied care, because they happen to have an illness or condition (even a risk factor) that causes them to be labeled ineligible. Too many people delay preventive care, because they cannot afford it. And millions of Americans have been put at risk, because they lost their jobs and then stood to lose their health. As a society, we can and should do better than this. Now, we will.

There will be a lot of battles ahead as the legislation gets implemented. The fights are not over, and the bill is far from perfect. Yet, we join the ranks of the many countries that provide health care as a right to citizens. For over 38 years, I have studied this topic and advocated for national health insurance. I am grateful to all the men and women in the House and Senate who stood up for the people of this country. It is a good day in America.

Happy Monday! Barbara

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