Monday, November 9, 2009

Miles To Go

It was hard not to feel some satisfaction in the House passage of health insurance reform on Saturday night. But the satisfaction was tempered with deep concerns.

First, in order to get the win, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to allow an amendment that will prevent any woman receiving a federal subsidy to have an abortion covered by her health insurance policy. The effectively means that the plans offered in the exchange -- essentially all plans for individual and small to mid-sized employers -- will not cover abortions. Only about 13% of abortions are funded by private insurance, so this was more of a symbolic vote than one that will make abortion unaffordable and, thus, even more rare. But what bothers me most is that it makes abortion even more of a class-based issue. If you had enough money to afford a privately-funded abortion, you probably won't qualify for a premium subsidy for your health insurance. In other words, the people who will receive subsidies are the people least able to pay for abortions, and those are the ones whose insurance will not be allowed to pay.

And if you watched any of the coverage over the week-end, you also know that male Republicans shouted down every woman in the House who tried to make comments about the impact health reform will have on women. No woman could get past a sentence. If I can find it again, I'll post it here. It was quite upsetting. It's bad enough that there are only 17 women in the House today. Those who are there were censored, and that was wrong.

Even more wrong is the fact that the Senate still doesn't have a bill or Congressional Budget Office estimates. Joe Lieberman and some of his misguided cronies have said that they will not allow a bill with a public option to even come to a vote. It's one thing to oppose; it's another thing to refuse to let something come to a vote. The way I count it, that's two acts of censorship.

I watched the HBO movie about Obama's campaign over the week-end. It made me recall the optimism I felt when he was elected, the tears of joy that flowed while I watched his inauguration. It's been 9 months, and now we have posters comparing health reform to the Holocaust, Obama in white-face, with a Hitler mustache -- where is this mean-spirited, small-minded, right-wing insanity coming from? And how is it that this fringe -- this small group of ultra-conservatives -- have taken over the Republican party and been given a voice that they now are using to censor dissenting opinions?

Health reform passed a major hurdle on Saturday night, but it is nothing like the hurdles that remain. I will be very surprised if we get any public option out of the Senate, and if Senator Reid doesn't hurry, we may get nothing at all, at least until the 1st of the year, which will give the Tea Baggers another shot at members when they are home for the holidays -- more scare tactics that seem to have worked against conservative Democrats in the House, and will be even more effective in the Senate.

And I am literally sick over the fact that a Senator from my state -- a state that has gay marriage, that is generally among the most liberal -- has pledged to shut down health reform in the Senate if it contains any form of public option -- even one with a trigger or an opt-out or an opt-in. Joe Lieberman will never be elected dog catcher again in Connecticut after this. But that doesn't change the fact that he -- that any one of 60 Democrats (and 2 Independents who vote with the Democrats) -- has veto power over the future of health care in America.

Where did the optimism go? Where are all the young kids who supported Obama? Why do the Tea Baggers go unresponded to? Why are the liberal Democrats sitting on their hands? Why are ANY Democrats hedging over the need to provide life-and-death health care to all? Indeed, why are any Americans against it?

I understand the fear of big government. But it's, frankly, a stupid argument in the health care context. We already have the federal employee plan, the VA, Medicare, Medicaid, coverage of all prisoners (state and federal) -- plus state employee plans, county plans -- and regulations that exist in EVERY state regulating health insurance. This is not about a government take-over; it's about a change in the substance of the government position. Why isn't that totally obvious to everyone?

I watch and listen in amazement. Are people really so poorly informed that they don't know that insurance already is regulated? Do they really believe that health care is not already rationed by health insurance companies (not to mention the government plans listed above)?

If you believe these things, then you need education. Now. I beg you -- urgently -- to read, listen. Talk to someone you know with a chronic illness and ask them if health care isn't already rationed by insurance companies. Email me and I'll send you a link to your state's insurance regulations.

This is too important an issue to shoot from the hip. If you are buying the Tea Baggers, it's because you are lacking information. If you want to be informed, there are thousands of us out here trying to get you that information. All you have to do is take the time. This isn't about politics. It's not about abortion. It's about life and death. Of our citizens. Of our Nation. Jennifer

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