Favorite

Health care now 

It is as simple as this: If you think universal health insurance is essential and urgent — and the vast majority of Americans do — you have to support the notion of doing it right away by majority rule.

That means embracing the idea of using the budget reconciliation process in the Senate to pass health-care reform, which would avoid a certain Republican filibuster and the necessity of lining up 60 percent of the Senate to halt it and permit a vote. A majority in the Senate and a majority in the House of Representatives would make it law, just like the founding fathers intended lawmaking to work.

If it doesn't happen that way, it is not going to happen at all, at least in the political cycle that ends with the 2010 elections. If health care spills over into the election year, the forces opposing a universal system will gain the upper hand just as they did in 1994 when election-year maneuvering stymied the last real effort to achieve it.

There is a sense in the land that universally affordable health care is a done deal because everyone — Republicans and Democrats, the insurance industry, medical providers, every business association and every other interest group with a stake in health care — is finally for it. But that is an illusion, just as it was in 1992 when presidential candidate Bill Clinton said in one of the debates that a universal system was unavoidable and only the niggling details in question because the whole country was behind it.

The details that might guarantee affordable coverage for everyone and not just more Band-Aids are the ones that important people don't agree on. They will block any bill that includes those details, if they can.

The big one is President Obama's central plan to include the option of a government basic insurance plan alongside private insurance plans. If there is going to be competition for health coverage, much of the insurance industry is not going to allow the legislation to pass, if they can help it. Remember the Harry and Louise commercials by the Health Insurance Association of America that blanketed the country in 1994 and sank Clinton's program?

Last week, the nation's largest health insurer made 3 million computer-generated telephone calls to Californians to get them roiled up about Obama's sweeping plan. Its major concern, though it wasn't communicated, is the government insurance plan. The company also is sore about the Senate avoiding a filibuster. Two years ago, the company provided the decisive muscle and a $2 million ad campaign that torpedoed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to mandate health insurance for all Californians and force insurers to sell policies to anyone regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Arkansas's Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Mike Ross, who are key figures in the health-care drive, both deplored using the reconciliation process to pass health care. They want to take lots of time to get it right and not ram it down the Republicans' throat, they said. It is a disturbing but not surprising development. They have said they wanted broad health-care reforms and Ross particularly has usually supported modest reforms, but they have not committed to the basic idea of an optional government insurance plan for those who cannot afford or get a private policy. If the insurance industry opposes it, it is a good bet that Lincoln will, too.

Despite the national consensus for health reform and the big Democratic victories, giving them 58 votes in the Senate by counting two leaning independents, it is not a cakewalk. They can expect three Republicans at most to join them and to lose six to eight Democrats on a cloture vote, maybe including Lincoln. Using the budget process they will need 50 senators. Vice President Joe Biden could provide the majority.

Republicans and the insurers say they wouldn't get a chance to debate the plan. Using the budget rules to pass health care doesn't impede debate or participation in any way. It just clears the way for an up-and-down vote when the time comes, probably this fall.

The idea of passing major legislation by a mere majority vote is not a radical one, as the Republicans proclaimed last week. That is how nearly every piece of major legislation in the nation's history was passed until conservatives began using the filibuster after World War II to block civil rights and then other reforms.

Ronald Reagan and both Bushes used the budget to pass their biggest bills when Democrats set out to block them, including George W. Bush's big tax cuts for the rich and corporations in 2001 and 2003.

This week, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire said the Democrats' use of the reconciliation process to pass health care reform was radical and he compared it to the strong-arm tactics of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

But back when he and the Republicans were using reconciliation to pass President Bush's programs over Democratic objections, Gregg said the Republicans were merely using Senate rules and he asked wryly, “Is there something wrong with majority rules?”

Of course there isn't. He was as right then as he was wrong this week.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Climate blind

    If there was ever a teaching moment for a nation or a culture on an issue of historic importance, wouldn't it be the late summer of 2017 for climate change?
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Tax sham

    This week begins another ritual that has become the most celebrated sham of modern times. We always look forward to it, because it will make our country richer and happier and change all our lives for the better. We call it tax reform.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Dollars and degrees

    Governor Hutchinson says a high graduation rate (ours is about the lowest) and a larger quotient of college graduates in the population are critical to economic development. Every few months there is another, but old, key to unlocking growth.
    • Aug 25, 2016

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Climate blind

    If there was ever a teaching moment for a nation or a culture on an issue of historic importance, wouldn't it be the late summer of 2017 for climate change?
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Tax sham

    This week begins another ritual that has become the most celebrated sham of modern times. We always look forward to it, because it will make our country richer and happier and change all our lives for the better. We call it tax reform.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Nobody is blaming the victim. There also isn't some sinister patriarchy going on, it is…

    • on September 25, 2017
  • Re: Sex on campus

    • I'm in my 50's. I don't think I know a single woman who HASN'T been…

    • on September 25, 2017
  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Here we see a "social scientist" who begins with an ad hominem argument, and then…

    • on September 24, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation