Friday, 06 January 2006
Bipartisanship and Healthcare
My advocacy of universal healthcare this week seems to have struck a chord. There has been a lot of good discussion in general and good debate on whether there is a “right” to healthcare or not.
For the record on the latter, my response remains as stated in that new box under the Google search on the right sidebar, which links to the first post in this series. I may move it around as future issues warrant, but it will remain somewhere on every page of TGB until the November election, as a reminder to all of us to badger our various candidates for Congress about creating universal healthcare legislation.
Or not badger, depending upon your point of view – and please do let us know if you’ve got a better idea; leaving healthcare to the whims of the corporate marketplace doesn't seem to be working, but maybe it could. In deciding whether to harangue your candidates, please remember 45 million fellow Americans who have no healthcare coverage – all lower and middle class.
Most importantly, remember the children. I’ve had a long and healthy life so far, but I also had excellent healthcare growing up which is an important ingredient of lifelong health. It is inconceivable to me that the U.S. allows any child to go without healthcare because their parents can’t afford it. We can fix that if we have the will.
In the five years since George W. Bush was elected president, Congress has voted wholly along partisan lines. With the Republican majority, together with too much Democratic assent, not a whiff of progressive or liberal principles has been allowed to temper the religious, market, military and social fundamentalism of the conservative political agenda.
It hasn't always been this way. It may be hard to remember in the current poisonous atmosphere in Congress, but the two parties have been known in the past to cooperate and collaborate on important issues, and now may be moment to return some sanity to the legislative process and some balance to the needs of the nation.
Due to the failure of FEMA following the hurricanes, mounting chaos in Iraq, a farcical nomination for the Supreme Court, revelations of widespread (bipartisan) corruption in Congress, and what appears to be a crime similar to that which forced President Nixon to resign, the conservative stranglehold on the political zeitgeist may be loosening.
That may be an opportunity for those in Congress who are not ensnared in the expanding corruption scandal to show that they can work in a bipartisan manner for the good of all Americans. And perhaps, by doing so, save themselves from defeat in the November election.
It is not impossible, but highly unlikely, that in an election year Americans can expect Congress to apply itself to the research, hearings and debate necessary to create universal healthcare legislation. But they could get started. They delegate the scut work anyway (unless it’s a televised hearing). They have aides and assistants and smart, young wannabe politicians and federal officials to do that. And at their beck and call are all the experts they need from all the disciplines required.
Plus, the government infrastructure exists:
The House Subcommittee on Health is chaired by Nancy L. Jones [R-CT]. The ranking Democrat is Sherrod Brown [D-OH]. Do either of them represent you?
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is chaired by Michael Enzi [R-WY]. The ranking Democrat is Edward M. Kennedy [D-MA]. Is anyone reading this from one of those two states?
And there is Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael O. Leavitt who, with Medicare officials, would undoubtedly have some useful information, not to mention those who run that gold-standard healthcare coverage program, FEHBP, that members of Congress enjoy.
Undoubtedly input is needed from the House and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees and many others, but that’s what Congress is elected to do – if we can get them off that golf course in Scotland, which may not be so difficult now that former uber-lobbyist and admitted felon, Jack Abramoff, is naming names.
In a December CNN/USA Today poll, half of Americans said they believe most of Congress is corrupt. That was before Mr. Abramoff’s plea deal this week and a whole lot of Congress members are scrambling now to return campaign contributions that are connected to Abramoff.
Perhaps I’m daydreaming for even thinking about this, but by making a bipartisan running start at universal healthcare this year, Congress might be able to redeem themselves. If they don’t, well, there’s that pesky election in November…
You might want to mention this to your representative and your senator, particularly if he or she is running for re-election. You can do that here.