Watching the health care debate in the United States—if, in fact, what has just transpired qualifies as “debate” in the usual sense—has been instructional. It has provided an opportunity to compare a republican democracy with our Westminster-tradition democracy. One element of the American republican system I really admire is the opportunity it provides for free votes, whereby votes in Congress do not follow rigidly along party lines and good legislation can sometimes escape the most egregious side effects of party politics.
|KEY HEALTH CARE REFORMS|
Cost: $940-billion over 10 years; would reduce deficit by $143-billion
Coverage: Expanded to 32 million currently uninsured Americans
Medicare: Prescription drug coverage gap closed; affected over-65s receive rebate and discount on brand name drugs
Medicaid: Expanded to include families under 65 with gross income of up to 133% of federal poverty level and childless adults
Insurance reforms: Insurers can no longer deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions
Insurance exchanges: Uninsured and self-employed able to purchase insurance through state-based exchanges
Subsidies: Low-income individuals and families wanting to purchase own health insurance eligible for subsidies
Individual Mandate: Those not covered by Medicaid or Medicare must be insured or face fine
High-cost insurance: Employers offering workers pricier plans subject to tax on excess premium
It really is too bad that the highly polarized political climate in the United States precluded a break from simply-minded partisanship. Given what has been at stake for the American people, I do not believe for an instant that every single Republican found the bill too repugnant to support it for the dozens of worthwhile elements it contained. Could not one Republican see the resemblance it had to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts legislation and support it as did many Republicans in New England when the state bill was signed into law by then governor and former Republican candidate for the presidency, Mitt Romney? Or could not Republicans see how—as David Frum puts it—”It builds on ideas developed at the conservative Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.”?
Instead Republicans chose the strategy of making a moderate bill look extreme and this relied on across-theboard Republican opposition so as to demonize the legislation. As one pundit writes, “Any move to exchange Republican votes for legislative concessions would have undercut the political case against the bill.”
That’s how politics work in America these days: demonize the opposition and whip up public sentiment with half-truths and disinformation. Sad really.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, the unsuccessful opponent of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, told ABC news that Republicans would use the health care issue against Democrats in the November congressional elections.
“The American people are very angry, and they do not like it and we are going to try to repeal this, and we are going to have a very spirited campaign coming up between now and November and there will be a very heavy price to pay for it.”
Senator McCain made a habit of choosing the wrong political strategy in 2008, and I fear he and other Republican Party leaders are about to make a similar mistake. My guess is that if they go down this road, they’ll not fare nearly as well in the November elections as they think.
Americans are not stupid. Most of them know that, throughout Western democracies, there are several health care programs in place that work very well for their citizens. I cannot name a single democracy which has repealed legislation that provides basic health care on a national basis, and I do not believe the United States will be the first to do so.
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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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