Victory for the people

By Luckmini Liyanage
Published: March 2010

“Access to healthcare was the great unfinished business of our society’€that is, until today, spoke Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, referencing a letter the late Senator Kennedy wrote to President Obama. The reform for healthcare has been long overdue.

Beginning in 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt campaigned for health insurance, along with women’s suffrage, and safer conditions for social workers.

In 1945, President Truman called for complete healthcare overhaul. In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law Medicare and Medicaid, of which 49 million people and 56 million people currently benefit, respectively.

Now in 2010, Democrats have finally passed a historic healthcare bill with 219 votes in the House.

After passage by the House, President Obama will be able to sign this bill into law’€a bill that a hundred years of presidents have tried to pass. The potency of this bill is on par with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Civil Rights bills.

The Senate bill now passed by the House will cover 31 million people and, as announced by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, will reduce the budget deficit by $132 billion dollars, and the reconciliation bill, if passed by the Senate, will cover 32 million and reduce the deficit by $138 billion.

People will no longer be denied the right to life because they are poor, or disabled, or sick. Households in the lowest income bracket, those below 150% of the poverty line, would pay only 2 to 4% of their income on premiums.

Those earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level would receive tax credits to help pay insurance premiums and out of pocket costs, only paying 9.8% of their income.

Insurance companies can also no longer deny children with diabetes or cancer healthcare, or even adults with a family history of heart disease.

Under the bill, states will form insurance exchanges, which will provide a marketplace for employers and individuals to essentially “shop for different healthcare plans, increasing competition, and decreasing prices.

So contrary to complaints, this healthcare bill does not decrease competition and promote socialism, instead it maximizes competition to benefit regular people, rather than companies. Furthermore, government will not take away people’s choice, but expand it. Those who already have healthcare will be able to keep their plans or choose a new, more affordable plan.

The healthcare bill will also improve our staggering economy. The United States has one of the most inefficient systems of healthcare in the developed world, spending the most money and getting the least results.

The rocketing prices of Medicare and Medicaid would bankrupt the United States in the near future, and insurance premiums by private companies have increased at a faster pace than Medicare rates.

The Senate bill will reduce Medicare fraud, not the benefits of Medicare, and Medicaid would be expanded to more than 16 million people, without increasing the budget deficit. Jobs will also be created by the new healthcare plan: research and development, nursing, and technical professions. The economic and logical aspects of healthcare reform, however, cannot be separated from their moral nature.

Healthcare, at its core, provides human beings with the right to life and the right to choose.

The Kaiser Foundation estimates that another 4 million Americans have lost health insurance because they have lost their jobs over the past two years. People cannot pay to live in a house nor can they pay to see a doctor.

This bill is not perfect, but it is a massive change for the future. President Obama, his staff, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats have passed perhaps one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in the twenty-first century.

The vote may not have been bipartisan, but the bill was’€it included over 200 Republican amendments. We cannot create the perfect healthcare system in one try.

Like our constitution, our government and our policies are living and breathing; they change and grow with time. Healthcare is not a privilege, but a right, ensuring all of us that our most fundamental ideals can be fulfilled’€the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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