Four Reasons Why Moderate Republicans and Conservative Democrats Should Help Pass the Senate Version of the Health Care Reform Bill
1. The relentless rise in health care costs and health insurance premiums which will result from a failure to pass this modestly comprehensive approach to health care reform will bankrupt the country and most working individuals and their families. It will result in the premature deaths of 275,000 Americans over the next decade as the number of uninsured skyrockets from 49 million now to 66 million by 2019.* The US Congress of 2010 will be held responsible for this tragedy, and judged harshly by history and by their community.
2. The Republican Party is wrong when they suggest that "incremental reform" can avoid this economic and public health catastrophe. Over the past 60 years it has been clearly demonstrated that health insurance companies operating in a relatively free market cannot and will not result in affordable universal access to health care. Instead, this approach has resulted in the expenditure of at least twice as much per capita (about $7000.00 per person) as other developed nations, with inferior health outcomes. Over the course of this 6 decade experiment in organizing health services by harnessing free market forces and the American "entrepreneurial spirit", the profession of medicine itself has been largely transformed from a country of physicians dedicated to caring for the entire community, including the less fortunate and those with "pre-existing conditions", to a profession driven primarily by entrepreneurial concerns. Physicians in America no longer consider the health of the community to be their primary concern, but focus on the well-being of their patients who they care for within their isolated entrepreneurial niche. This is the legacy of the free market and incremental reform in the US.
3. Americans may not trust "big government" to fix the health care system, but they have learned that Medicare and the Veterans Administration -- two big government health programs, are delivering excellent care to their patients. The Senate health care bill does not establish a "single payer system" (although this is the best economic model, it is ideologically unacceptable to many Americans, and could not be passed in Congress). Instead, the government would set the rules for health care providers, community clinics, health insurance companies, and HMO's who want to participate in the care of Americans. Innovations which result in the provision of Medical Homes, the complex and comprehensive model endorsed by all 4 primary care specialties in the US as "The Patient Centered Medical Home," will result in financial viability for all of these providers. The Medical Home model enjoys support from the Fortune 100, the AARP, more than 40 states in the US, most medical economists, and both Republicans and Democrats. This is a truly "bipartisan" strategy if we cast aside the ideology of free market economics and mistrust of "big government".
4. For all members of congress who claim to be secular humanists or adherents to any of the three predominant monotheistic religions in our country, they are now compelled not just by fiscal and practical concerns, but by their own moral principals. It is clear that the current 49 million Americans suffering premature illness and death will grow to at least 66 million by 2019 if this bill is not passed. Most of our lawmakers, and certainly their constituents, understand that there is a moral imperative to care for these less fortunate members of our community. In the case of the big 3 religions, this imperative is clearly articulated within a moral code based upon an "objective morality", proclaimed by the Creator God. For these people of faith, there is no moral alternative to passing a close version of the Senate Bill at this unique time in the history of our country.
I hope that these 4 "reasons" will be clearly articulated in the weeks ahead by the Obama Administration and by all Congressmen and Congresswomen on both sides of the isle who decide to renew their commitments that they made to public service at their noblest moments. For those of faith, may their God give them the spiritual wisdom to know that when they put the needs of the folks who they represent ahead of their own political fortunes, their God of Mercy and Justice will take care of the rest. For in order to be first, they must first be last -- public servants to all who they serve in this great democracy.
*See Reed Abelson's Op-Ed, "The Cost of Doing Nothing" in the New York Times Week in Review, Sunday February 28, 2010.