THE BLOG
08/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Universal Healthcare: A Matter of Political Will (Updated)

Elections have consequences: we voted for universal health care and intend to get it done. Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, millions of Americans were given the option for transformational change; for shifting the billions we spend on high-end tax cuts and war in Iraq to the health and well-being of our families. Now it is crunch time -- and the rising chorus of patients, doctors, nurses and small businesses speaks with one voice: it is time to deliver.

What stands in the way? The status quo. Today's salvo comes from the Congressional Budget Office assessment that health care reform needs more changes and fewer costs. This morning I received my daily beltway buzz question from Politico's http://www.politico.com/arenaArena editor asking for comment on the Washington Post assessment that the CBO assessment is "devastating" for healthcare reform.

While writing my response to Politico's question, I got a call from the hospital billing department because my insurance company has yet to pay a claim from before my 4-month old daughter was born. Nevermind that we paid our premiums -- which rose 30% during my pregnancy. Nevermind that my doctor ordered every test and procedure. My baby is already teething and we are still waiting for the hospital and the insurance company bureaucrats to decide whether her prenatal tests were covered. And we are the lucky ones -- our baby is healthy. So count me unimpressed by those who say now is not the time for healthcare reform.

Universal healthcare can happen -- it is just a matter of political will.

So the CBO tells Congress to find bigger changes, more reforms, and added cost savings -- and the Washington Post -- the paper that set up pay-to-play salons for "those powerful few who will decide" healthcare http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/24441.html and won't tell their readers those deciders - says that's "devastating." Did one of "those powerful few" feel it was devastating? Do tell.

Meanwhile, we non-salon Americans favoring universal health care don't find it devastating -- just challenging -- that reformers will have to try harder to find more savings as the bill works its way through Congress.

Friday's email from President Obama's camp http://barackobama,.com lays it out:

as the final negotiations begin, desperate lobbyists and defenders of the status quo will distort, attack, and make every threat they can to stop reform. We're fighting back with our biggest week yet in this campaign -- knocking on doors, making phone calls, and putting real health stories on the air to make it clear why we need reform now.

I hadn't intended to include my story today but the hospital called while I was typing so there's a taste of the frustration. Want to start a family? Get insurance first -- pregnancy is a pre-existing condition. Need prenatal care? Your sonogram must prove that insurance preceded conception. Doctor-ordered prenatal exams? The bureaucrats fight those well into the birth of your child.

We know this is hard -- which is why we hired Barack Obama and the Congress to make the tough choices needed to fix it. I remain confident that they will succeed. But it won't happen without us -- change never does. Lift your voice at http://barackobama.com

UPDATE: MONDAY, JULY 20: President Obama begins a full court press. Good. He should be willing to keep the summer deadline for House and Senate healthcare bills and go overtime into August if necessary. I can't think of a single reason why a public servant wants to be on recess - what the media will call a "vacation" - rather than at the Capitol working on healthcare. Back in the day people wanted their President and Members of Congress in the House and Senate to be at home in the community during extended periods of time to check in with the constituents, and show they weren't catching Potomac fever - and the Congressional calendar reflects that. In this time of economic recession, people want to see our elected representatives at work attacking the problems we elected them to solve. Of course community work is essential - and the multimillion dollar staff and communication budgets of the President and Congress allow them to update people on progress. But you can't show off progress until you make some, and you can only do that in the same room as your opponents hashing out differences.

That desire is exponential for politically active constituents who worked for change and expect results. Having just spent time with California Democrats at our executive board meeting, I can attest to the Obama volunteers' hunger for change and their desire to see the President make it happen. California is a bellwether for anyone thinking that a "recess" will impress constituents: we see our state legislators at home and ask aloud why they are not in Sacramento passing a budget, and we were inflamed by our governor for telling the New York Times he lights up a stogie in his jacuzzi every night regardless of how the budget fights are going.

We know we will get a House bill but have no clue where the Senate and White House will go or when. That in turn makes us question when we will see relief from skyrocketing insurance premiums and medical bills. Take it from one of many fed-up Californians: the President should act as though he is what stands between the status quo and the pitchforks.

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