We are now in a position where the House has passed a healthcare bill that is pretty much as good as it gets at this point. Aside from adopting the Stupak amendment, which provides ironclad protection against the subsidization of abortion, this bill is better than its Senate alternative in terms of subsidies, in terms of coverage, in terms of the public option, in terms of the employer mandate. While both bills pay for themselves, reducing the deficit, the House bill does it in the fairest way – by adding a surtax on those making more than a million dollars a year. This is in line with the principle of solidarity and is especially appropriate at a time when income inequality has returned to the levels of the gilded age.
For sure, this bill is not perfect. But look at the advantages. It will cover the vast majority of people. It will prevent the insurance companies from excluding people, dropping people, denying claims, and pricing people out of the market based on pre-existing conditions. It will end the scandal of people dying from lack of healthcare, not seeking treatment because it is too costly, and going bankrupt because of healthcare costs. It is comparatively weak on overall cost control, but that would mean tackling ingrained special interests such as the medical industry, the drug companies, and the AARP. It is no surprise that these groups are all on board, but it will not come without cost. While I believe this bill will reduce the trajectory of healthcare costs from the do-nothing baseline, US healthcare will still be dramatically more expensive than among comparator countries. But at this point, it is hard to see how a better bill can come out of this tortured political process.
So, where do we go from here? I think the pro-choice groups were in shock after Sunday’s vote, but they are rapidly regrouping. This is not over. There is, however, one way that a bill like this that includes the Stupak amendment can pass – if enough principled Republicans step up to support it. Can it be that Joseph Cao is the only principled Republican on this issue? The pro-life Democrats have proved their mettle. They stood up on principle and faced down the House leadership. Now it is the Republicans’ turn. Can at least some of them stand up for universal healthcare that excludes all abortion funding? Can they not follow the lead of the USCCB? Or will they stick to their meaningless and wholly inaccurate slogans like “socialized” medicine and the “government takeover” of healthcare?
And what about Obama? I think Obama should encourage all to maintain the Stupak amendment. After all, it fits with what he has said previously, and this has drawn the ire of the pro-choice groups:
In 1993, Hillary Clinton explicitly told Congress that she expected pregnancy and abortion to be treated in health reform like any other medical service. This year, though, Obama sent a different message, telling Katie Couric in July, “I think we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care”.
Oh, but isn’t he supposed to be the most pro-abortion president ever….or is that yet again an example of sloganeering over substance?