Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health care reform after all? - Gail Collins becomes giddy with anticipation

It looks as though today really is the moment of truth in the year-long political struggle over health care reform. So what is this all about?

In her column in yesterday's New York Times, Gail Collins warmed up by tossing out some mildly sarcastic remarks about the process leading up to this moment--which really does have many grimly amusing aspects. Then she got a bit more soberly factual, though only up to a point:
On Sunday, the House is expected to finally vote on the bill that the Senate approved on Christmas Eve after a debate so endless that the wiped-out majority leader, Harry Reid, initially voted “no” by mistake. If it passes, it theoretically goes to the president. In the real Congressional world, there are still major complications involving a second bill making changes in the first one, under parliamentary procedures so abstract that they verge on the metaphysical. [JW: In the real world, these procedures look so "abstract" and "metaphysical" only to inattentive journalists, Republican propagandists, and people determined to be confused. But OK.]

That would bounce back to the Senate, where the Republicans are vowing to find some way to stretch the process out even longer. (Friday was also the feast of St. Pancharius, a Roman senator who was beheaded by the emperor in 303. No matter how bad it gets, this is not the sort of thing we want to encourage.) [JW: I'm not so sure.]
=> And then Collins abruptly zeroed in on the real heart of the matter. This is what it's about:
Nevertheless, Sunday feels as if it’s going to be the critical moment, and if the House votes yes, it will be kind of incredible.

We live in an era in which the power of the new hypermedia is so intense and politics so rabid that it’s almost impossible for Congress to do anything more difficult than tax cuts or highway construction. Yet, here’s this huge, complicated, controversial reform — bigger than any domestic program in decades.

If it passes, the short-term political consequences are unknowable. But in 10 years, people will look back in amazement that we once lived in a time when Americans couldn’t get health care coverage if they were sick, when insurance companies could cut off your benefits for being sick, and when run-of-the-mill serious illnesses routinely destroyed families’ financial security.
Or, if this whole year-long effort ends in failure today, no one will touch comprehensive health care reform again for decades, and the whole situation will continue to get worse. Stay tuned ...

--Jeff Weintraub