Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The United States Joins the Industrial World

President Obama signed the health insurance reform bill today. My friend Charlie Stella will disagree with me, but I think this is the most significant piece of legislation to be enacted during my adult life. (I was none when Medicare passed.)

The bill doesn't go far enough, but it's a start. History has shown what was enacted today is more likely to be added to than to be repealed. (Good luck trying to take its beneficial provisions away from people once they actually get to experience those benefits.) The public option was lost, but that was a big step for a country as polarized as we are right now. I truly believe we will have a single payer system--or exchanges that closely mimic one--possibly in my lifetime.

There are key provisions we must not forget when lamenting what could have been accomplished. Once it's fully implemented, people should no longer have to worry about losing their homes or forfeiting their children's education because they got sick. They won't have to worry about an insurance provider arbitrarily denying them coverage because of a pre-existing condition. They won't have to worry about losing their coverage because it looks like their care is going to get expensive, or because they lost their job and can't afford the COBRA payments.

Systemically, this law should start to put the brakes on the unchecked growth of health care spending. Rather than Republicans crying doom because the government is taking over 1/6 of the economy--which it isn't--they should be happy that this bill may help to make health care only 1/7 of the economy some day. Payments will be made on the efficacy of care, not the frequency.

A flawed bill? Of course; in someone's eyes, every bill is flawed. The perfect legislation has yet to be conceived. Still, it's a good start, and it's only fair for critics such as I to give due credit to Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and, maybe most, Nancy Pelosi for getting it done.

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