It’s hard to keep up hope. Harder still to muster the fighting spirit that’s needed to keep health care reform alive. But it’s not dead yet. And it won’t be if enough members of Congress hear from enough of us.
That’s what I heard yesterday from seasoned advocates at Families USA and other partners in the Coalition on Human Needs. They’ve been working on health care reform since before it was a twinkle in Obama’s eye. And I figure if they’ve still got the hope and heart to advocate, then we should too.
We’ve come to this pretty pass for a couple of reasons. The most important, I think, is that we’ve lost sight of the forest for the trees. Understandably so, given the surfeit of blow-by-blow media reports, propaganda and detailed analyses of flaws and compromises.
I own a share of responsibility for this. So here’s my list of big good things the pending legislation would do:
- Expand health insurance coverage to about 31 million more people–an even greater number if certain provisions in the House bill prevail.
- Make health insurance–and health care–affordable for millions more who have insurance but are over-burdened by the premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
- Enable more small businesses to offer health care benefits.
- Ensure that we’ll have health care coverage even if we lose our jobs or our employers drop it.
- Prevent insurance companies from denying coverage or charging exorbitant rates because of pre-existing health conditions, gender or age.
- Keep Medicare affordable and narrow the gap in prescription coverage (the infamous doughnut hole).
- Curb the soaring costs of health care, which jeopardize the coverage we have and our economy as a whole.
Some members of Congress–and perhaps the White House too–view the upset in Massachusetts and some recent polls as signals to step back. We hear talk of paring the package back to a few, relatively uncontroversial elements. Republican leaders say Congress should start all over again, with a bipartisan approach, a.k.a. their proposal.
History tells us there won’t be another chance to pass comprehensive health care reform for many years. Recall that the last serious effort died 15 years ago. But if the imperfect bill we’ve got now does pass, there will always be chances to improve it.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman puts it well. “Whereas flawed social insurance programs have tended to get better over time, the story of health reform suggests that rejecting an imperfect deal in the hope of eventually getting something better is a recipe for getting nothing at all.”
I think our elected leaders know this. But they think that most of us don’t want comprehensive health care reform. We’ve got a small window of opportunity to convince them otherwise.
Families USA has an open letter to members of Congress urging them to move forward on meaningful health care reform now. So pass the news along if you belong to an organization that would endorse it or a listserv that would spread the word.
UPDATE: Families USA has set up a toll-free hotline for us to call our Congressional representatives. It’s 800-828-0498. This number will take you to the Capitol Hill switchboard. So ask the person who answers to put you through to the appropriate office. Those of you who’ve got Senators will need to make three calls to cover all bases.
The link above will take you to a page that includes suggested talking points. But I think the link itself contains the germ of a great message: “Can’t back down.” Our representatives don’t have to be told all the reasons we need comprehensive health care reform. They need to know that we want them to pass it now.