I don't agree with Howard Dean. Yes, we are from the same state and he was once my Lt. Governor, but, unlike Howard, I say vote for the bill and dramatically expand health insurance now. His assumption in asking Democrats to kill the Senate bill is that next time around, we'll get something better. I think we'll get nothing at all.
Experience tells us that ever since Harry Truman asked for universal access to health care, the refusal to compromise has doomed such legislation. Even Bill Clinton now regrets that he did not compromise with the Republicans on health care in 1992. We had to wait seventeen years for a second chance and in the meantime, costs went up, and millions of Americans were denied health care. Some paid for this delay with their lives.
Flawed as it is--with no public option and restrictions on abortion--if it makes it through the next tortuous votes--it will be a huge achievement. More than 30 million Americans will have health insurance coverage for the first time, and millions more who were denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions will be able to be insured.
We must remember that Social Security, now the most popular government program, was slowly expanded and improved. We can expect a similar progression with health care.
If you have doubts about the bill, just put yourself in the shoes of a family who has no health insurance. Think about the kids, about the parents—the anxiety and insecurity they must feel. They're afraid to go to the doctor or the hospital until they are seriously ill. Having a health insurance roof over your head certainly must make it easier to fall asleep at night. Those of us who have insurance cannot deny those who do not, simply because we don't like the whole package. The best Christmas present anyone without insurance could receive is a package placed under the tree marked "health insurance for you and your family."
Madeleine M. Kunin is the former Governor of Vermont and was the state's first woman governor. She served as Ambassador to Switzerland for President Clinton, and was on the three-person panel that chose Al Gore to be Clinton's VP. She is the author of Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead from Chelsea Green Publishing.