Today I have the rare occasion to rail against those whose causes I usually champion. Health care reform should have caught the country unaware. Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton have all argued for a greater federal role in health care. All other industrialized nations, as well as many developing countries, provide it. President Bush even promised universal health care to Iraqis, according to a 2003 news release from the U.S. House of Representatives.But President Obama comes to the fore and suddenly federal health care reform is a tool of socialism and its ultimate goal is to euthanize granny against her will? There is something very sinister about the way the health care discussion has advanced in recent months.As progressive America scratches its collective head, the Republican leadership has spent the summer sprinting for the fringes of its party and conjuring half-truths and outright lies that become more outrageous every day. The death panel” conversation, for one, doesn’t even deserve to be recognized. The argument is intellectually humiliating at best and an outrageous and dangerous lie at worst. It is unworthy of us all.I don’t mean to be combative. But I’m a self-avowed health care supporter and am enormously chagrined at the direction the debate took this summer. I welcome a real discussion about health care and its efficacy. But the arguments that have been forwarded by the Republicans are as upsetting as how the Democrats, my own party, have allowed the conversation to be about fictitious and alarmist claims.Don’t misunderstand me: bipartisanship is always a worthy goal. But in the name of bipartisanship, Democrats have made enormous concessions to placate conservatives whose votes they wouldn’t have had anyway. Subsequently, Democrats have harpooned their own chances of enacting substantive reform.An August NBC-WSJ poll by SurveyUSA puts support for the creation of a public option of health care at 77 percent. Last year saw the advent of a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress as well as a Democratic presidency. That is as clear a mandate for reform as either party will ever see ” and yet, right-wing factions have sidelined the real conversation. We’re seeing the rare tyranny of the minority and there’s nothing democratic about it. I abhor the fact that partisanship can deliberately inhibit progress where progress is desired and so richly deserved.Not only is reform warranted, it’s long overdue. Health care is a right, a necessary human service. It is not a privilege for the lucky few. I can’t accept living in the wealthiest nation on the planet while that nation denies available care to a person who needs it because of his or her economic status or pre-existing conditions. The latter is the most infuriating of all the intellectual paradoxes that populate the minefield of health care reform ” only the healthy need health care insurance, right?Dissenters turn the question of health care into one of economics and try to posit the theory that universal health care will bankrupt the system. The truth is that reform will reel in insurance, control costs and tourniquet a system that is already hemorrhaging. Politicians squabble and, in the interim, 46 million remain uninsured and 22,000 of those die from treatable conditions annually, according to the National Coalition on Health Care.Surely we can do better.
Republicans and Democrats have floundered around the issue of national health care reform. It’s time to shelve the distractions and make some change.