Now that it looks like health care reform is on its way to passing the Senate, the next hurdle down the road, Republicans are claiming that Democrats are ignoring the will of the people, citing polls saying that a majority don't like the Senate bill. NRC chairman Michael Steele even came out today and accused Democrats of 'throwing the finger at the American people.'
This is ridiculous. First, the polls simply ask whether people support the current Senate health care plan. Well, the truth is, I don't like it a bit in that I support a robust public option like the one that is in the house bill. So if you asked me if I support the Senate plan I'd say 'no.' But that's not to say I agree with Republicans who don't want to do anything. Further, as a number of people who were around in 1994 said this week, 'don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.' In 1994 a number of liberals opposed HillaryCare because they felt it didn't go far enough, and in the end we got nothing. So this time around liberals held their noses at some of the more odious aspects of the bill and voted for universal coverage.
And for that matter if you insist on looking at polls, the most recent poll by CNN indicates that support for reform is now gaining again.
This bill does, even if through mechanisms I may not like seek to achieve universal coverage. That has been a big problem for years, as we have a two tier health system, of the insured versus the uninsured. I don't like mandates, much prefering a single payer system up front but at least the mandates are backed by large government subsidies that will make the premiums affordable to people who are uninsured and living on a limited income.
And this is huge. Simply put, universal coverage is something that we've been striving for, for a long, long time. Maybe how we get there isn't perfect but it is undeniably going to be a very good thing. And the United States will no longer stand out as the only industrialized country in the world that fails to make health care coverage available to everyone. Other countries, such as Japan, have systems similar to that which we are now on the verge of passing, in that the insurance itself is offered through private companies even while premiums are heavily subsidized by the government.
Further, as one supporter of the bill pointed out, this is a foundation. It can be added onto in the future if problems are found wanting.
But most importantly, this represents a fundamental change for America, and a change for the better. It ranks with programs such as Social Security as representing the finest in America, the idea that we can provide for all of our citizens. And at this historic moment, if only Democrats will vote for this, then so be it.
Let me play off the 'let not the perfect be the enemy of the good' statement. Let me say also, 'let not the popular be the enemy of the right.' Often doing what is right is not popular. But it is still right, and for that the Senate Democrats (and yes, grudgingly even Joe Lieberman) should be commended for last night's vote.