Back when we were pushing for the public option, I had the chance to interview Mr. Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive turned advocate for reform. Now, as part 2 in my series of blogs on whether or not the healthcare bill is worth supporting now, I’d suggest reading Mr. Potter’s thoughtful peice on the Huffington Post:
Over the past few days, some organizations that have worked so hard for many years for comprehensive reform, especially those that have advocated for a single payer system like Canada’s, have joined groups on the opposite end of the political and philosophical spectrum in calling for defeat of the legislation. “Kill the Bill” is in the subject line of many emails I’ve been getting lately.
I understand their frustration, but I believe that when they stop and think about the real consequences of what they demanding, they will realize that for all its disappointing compromises and flaws, even the Senate-passed bill should be viewed as a foundation that can be built upon in years to come. Ted Kennedy, who advocated for a “Medicare for All” type system before many of today’s activists were born, would truly have been proud of this beginning. He would not have liked everything about the bill, that’s for sure, but he understood what it means to live in a political world and that compromises — even big ones — almost always have to be made on the journey toward an ultimate destination.
We will not be arriving at that final destination with the bill that reaches the president, but we have started the journey. Progressives must keep in mind that even leaving the station has not been a possibility for 15 years. We must not forget what happened in 1994 — the last time we thought the stars had aligned — when opponents of reform prevailed. We must also not forget that many of the reforms in the Senate and House bills are critically important. Yes, insurance companies likely will try to game the system in their relentless quests to meet Wall Street’s expectations, but many of the practices they have used for decades to do that will become illegal. We also must not forget the importance to lawmakers of the future of having a foundation to build upon. They will not have to start from scratch as current and past lawmakers have always had to do. And future lawmakers will be able to fix problems not addressed by this legislation as well as the unintended consequences that inevitably will arise.
Among the other wonderful people I have met over the past six months are people who were denied coverage — or lost it — because insurance companies had decided they had disqualifying “pre-existing conditions.” Others, many with chronic conditions, lost coverage when they lost their jobs and have no idea how they will be able to eat, pay the mortgage and buy the medications necessary to stay alive. They are scared, and they are desperate. The stories I have heard have been heartbreaking. I just wish my former corporate colleagues, the tea baggers who tried to shut down even consideration of reform, and the “Kill the Bill” liberals could have been my traveling companions. I’m sure many of them, even the liberals who think we can wait until we can get more perfect reform, would have been stunned to hear the compelling evidence that the country they love, the country many opponents of reform continue to insist has the best health care system in the world, lets this happen to their fellow citizens. Looking people in the eyes as they tell their stories makes you understand in ways you couldn’t before just how crucial it is to act now.
The full article is worth the read. The more I think about it and the more I learn, the more unwilling I am to see the good reforms in the bill be cast aside, despite the overall bill’s imperfections. I would, however, like to see the individual mandate stripped from the bill if there is no public option or other appropriate cost control…