Like millions of Americans, I received a letter from President Obama the other day thanking me for my help in getting a comprehensive health care reform bill passed. I thought about it for a moment and then it occurred to me that I had very little to do with it; in fact, I was doubtful if it would ever get this far.
No, this is not the bill I envisioned, there was no single-payer, no public option plan, but at least it appears to be, for the moment, a substantial step in the right direction. To think that more than 30 million people now will receive coverage is not quite what citizens in other industrial nations enjoy, but it seems to be a lot better than what poor Americans have been enduring for the last century or so.
What bothers me is now that the insurance rolls will be considerably expanded, where are the doctors, particularly primary care physicians, to attend the increased needs of an insured but ailing populace? When I suggested that maybe Cuba, with its abundance of doctors might deploy some here, I was called a “communist, a Fidelista.” And that is not an allegation I rush to disown, but the suggestion was meant facetiously.
But the crying need for more doctors is a critical issue and not a laughing matter.
Obama, through his diligence, perseverance and bulldog tenacity has pulled a rabbit out of the hat, and certainly in the short term it is a historical breakthrough. How it plays out in the long run, especially by the mid-term elections, well, that’s another question.
The final vote from the House on Sunday near midnight was 219-212, with no Republicans crossing over the ever-expanding ideological chasm and 34 Democrats voted against it. It is to be hoped that those in opposition were first year representatives in states where voters favored Bush and McCain, which means their nays may help them in the reelection bid.
While this wasn’t “radical reform, but major reform,” as the president said in an address to the nation after Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled and announced the results, it does provide some immediate benefits, and as a senior I look forward to the rebate on my prescription drugs. And younger Americans will be pleased to learn that they can keep their children on their insurance plans until they are 26.
Also, small businesses can expect tax credits to help them insure their employees, those entrepreneurs lucky enough to have employees in these deep recession times.
Of course, this is by no means the end of the journey, Obama stressed, there are still a number of “fixes” that have to be debated and we can expect the Republicans to be as resistant as the Tea Party folks are inane and counterproductive. The president didn’t get the lofty bipartisanship he sought, and such a quest was at best quixotic and naïve. I think he wasted a lot of political capital serenading “the Party of No.”
Toward the end of his letter, Obama wrote: “Our journey began three years ago, driven by a shared belief that fundamental change is indeed still possible. We have worked hard together every day since to deliver on that belief. “We have shared moments of tremendous hope, and we’ve faced setbacks and doubt,” he continued. “We have all been forced to ask if our politics had simply become too polarized and too short-sighted to meet the pressing challenges of our time. This struggle became a test of whether the American people could still rally together when the cause was right — and actually create the change we believe in.”
Again, Mr. President, don’t waste too much time putting a lot of stock in the ethos of the American people. My greatest hope is that incipient racism that is beginning to surface isn’t violently expressed. But, clearly, the potential is there.
And I wouldn’t worry too much about all the brouhaha about a “black agenda” and whether or not you should have one. I’ll tell you what, if you want my opinion on this, why not write me another personal letter like the current one. That will give us a better opportunity to exchange some important ideas, as we go forward.
For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.
Consider the staggering scope of what you have just accomplished:
Because of you, every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.
Every American will be covered under the toughest patient protections in history. Arbitrary premium hikes, insurance cancellations, and discrimination against pre-existing conditions will now be gone forever.
And we’ll finally start reducing the cost of care — creating millions of jobs, preventing families and businesses from plunging into bankruptcy, and removing over a trillion dollars of debt from the backs of our children.
But the victory that matters most tonight goes beyond the laws and far past the numbers.
It is the peace of mind enjoyed by every American, no longer one injury or illness away from catastrophe.
It is the workers and entrepreneurs who are now freed to pursue their slice of the American dream without fear of losing coverage or facing a crippling bill.
And it is the immeasurable joy of families in every part of this great nation, living happier, healthier lives together because they can finally receive the vital care they need.
This is what change looks like.
My gratitude tonight is profound. I am thankful for those in past generations whose heroic efforts brought this great goal within reach for our times. I am thankful for the members of Congress whose months of effort and brave votes made it possible to take this final step. But most of all, I am thankful for you.
This day is not the end of this journey. Much hard work remains, and we have a solemn responsibility to do it right. But we can face that work together with the confidence of those who have moved mountains.
Our journey began three years ago, driven by a shared belief that fundamental change is indeed still possible. We have worked hard together every day since to deliver on that belief.
We have shared moments of tremendous hope, and we’ve faced setbacks and doubt. We have all been forced to ask if our politics had simply become too polarized and too short-sighted to meet the pressing challenges of our time. This struggle became a test of whether the American people could still rally together when the cause was right — and actually create the change we believe in.
Tonight, thanks to your mighty efforts, the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.
Thank you, President Barack Obama