All the talk in the health care debate about reconciliation, parliamentarians, filibusters and all the finger pointing between the House and Senate or between Republicans and Democrats - however valid in the minds of inside the beltway pundits - is simply out of touch.
Washington leaders are facing a historic backlash by voters who don't see the change they voted for. Some are progressives who see big rhetoric and not enough action. Others are in the middle and see a Washington so dysfunctional that even with one party controlling the White House, and holding huge majorities in Congress, there is still no action on solving basic problems of health care coverage and cost.
The remedy for all this is not complicated. Two thing need to happen:
- Stop talking about process and start talking about real people and their problems.
- Actually do something.
Democrats largely lost the fall health care debate because it was about process, spending and government intervention and not about the people in this country who desperately need practical solutions. For Americans facing spiraling costs or trying to care for sick family members without health insurance, all this talk about Washington politics and how things get done - however seemingly valid to inside the beltway pundits - is simply offensive. It's worse than politics as usual - it's a sign that their loud messages to Washington are being met with disdain.
If we all simply paid heed to the real problems people are facing perhaps compromise would not be so distant and urgency would override endless squabbling over rules and political posturing. Maybe that's somewhat naive. But I guarantee there are many people who agree with me.
Zikia Jones-Martin doesn't care how Congress gets it done. She's a Howard University student who lost her mother two years ago after a hard-fought battle with breast cancer. Zikia's mother had COBRA insurance which ran out; she could not get new coverage because her cancer was a pre-existing condition. While waiting to get on Medicare and Medicaid, she lost her battle and passed away.
Kelly and David Arellanes of Little Rock, Arkansas don't care who gets credit for passing the legislation. They had to declare bankruptcy in 2005 after Kelly suffered an accident and was in a coma for three weeks. Their insurance initially denied the claim, then subsequently paid half the bill, leaving them some $200,000 in debt.
Heather Mroz from Florida had her insurance company cancel her policy just before the premature birth of her twins. Result: she and her husband incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and had to move in with her parents. With mountains of debt threatening the future of her family, do you think she cares about reconciliation? Seriously?
Next week all of these people will be in Washington to tell their stories. They won't be stories about Senate rules, or popularity polls or blue dogs or even elections. They are stories about bankrupt families, lost loved ones and frustrations that Washington leaders just don't get it. They will be coming to tell the insurance industry that they are tired of the way things are and to tell members of Congress that they have the opportunity to put the system on track to the way things should be.