SANDERS: Healthy start

By RUFUS G.W. SANDERS, Register columnist Change and reform are never easy even when it is clear change is needed. It can be filled with drama and so many traumas. There is never reform without chaos. The process can be downright wrenching. It is usually disruptive. But there are times when change is absolutely necessary. This was such a time.
Commentary
Mar 29, 2010

By RUFUS G.W. SANDERS, Register columnist

Change and reform are never easy even when it is clear change is needed. It can be filled with drama and so many traumas. There is never reform without chaos. The process can be downright wrenching. It is usually disruptive.

But there are times when change is absolutely necessary. This was such a time.

For the last 100 years this country has been trying to move toward a social program that would ensure all Americans would be entitled to health care that is affordable and accessible. And for the last 100 years we have been unable to achieve it.

That in itself was ironic in that the United States is the only advanced industrial nation in the world that does not provide or guarantee universal heath care for its citizens. There are even Third World-like countries that provide what in the 21st century should be not only a right -- especially in a democracy -- but a moral obligation. While this bill does not reach universality, it is a beginning.

All Americans should be entitled to an education. Every homeless person should have a roof over his or her head. Every person who wants to work should have a job. The aged should live their last days in security and dignity. And now, finally, we all will have access to health care. It now becomes a fundamental right.

And just as Social Security became the foundation of America's retirement system, bringing dignity and security to Americans who had worked hard and long to build and sustain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all the people, health care should also be foundational. Though the country has endured a year of some of the most raucous political fighting we have seen since the civil rights and voting rights laws of the 1960s -- despite all the vitriol and attempts at obstruction and tactics of delay -- the democratic process has worked again and we have a new beginning.

I have always wondered what the big deal was. The polls indicated most Americans wanted health care reform all the time. The current system was about to bankrupt the entire country, just as if we had not created the stimulus plan to bail out the banks and automotive industries. The American economy was about to go belly up. This new health care reform will provide coverage for 30 million uninsured individuals neglected by a system that was dysfunctional, discriminatory and just plain undemocratic. A system that itself was just sick!

This new system will limit and even prevent the victimization of citizens by insurance companies who abuse with unchecked power the very people they are suppose to help. This new system will check the horrendous manipulation of the free-market system by making these companies accountable for the capricious raising of cost, all while reducing the deficit. So what is the big deal?

This reform will ensure Americans who have employer-based insurance will have the security of knowing that, if they lose their job, they cannot be denied coverage or charged higher rates because of pre-existing conditions when they find new insurance. The bill ensures small business owners will get help to insure their workers. All chronically ill children will be automatically guaranteed coverage. Pray tell, what is wrong with that? What is the big deal? Eventually all insurers must accept all applicants regardless of their health status. All Americans will be required to have coverage, just as we all must now have car insurance, thus spreading the cost among the entire nation -- the healthy and the sick. What could be fairer than that? Talk about the pure American ideal of egalitarianism.

But even with benefits the myths still persist. They are being used by obstructionists to scare the American people and stop the inevitable, which is the need for real social change and reform in America. People, there are no death panels. There is no government takeover, any more than there was when Social Security became the law of the land. There is no beginning of a socialist regime any more than there was when Medicare and Medicaid became the law, or when veterans returning from Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan were given virtual free governmental access to medical treatment. There is no government sponsorship of abortions.

This bill is not perfect but it is a beginning. It will lay a structural foundation for the continuation of the best heath care in the world and make a serious effort at controlling medical inflation, which will eventually lower premiums and create real competition on which the American economy should be based.

This all came about because of a President Barack Obama and his team of believers in the House and the Senate and among the people -- visionary, audacious, pragmatic, decisive, patient, brave and of a pure heart. Obama kept his campaign promise and got us a square deal all while never forgetting the promise of the New Frontier and the Great Society. He has brought us to a "New Beginning," because it is at last, truly, "Morning in America!"