Sunday, October 11, 2009

John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage is a collection of essays about being in public office faced with doing the politically expedient thing or taking action which would endanger their political careers because it was right. 

I am having a difficult time trying to figure out whether the Democrats’ actions related to health reform should be included among profiles in courage or great political blunders. 

Republicans continue to boast that they have transformed public opinion to where it currently is overwhelmingly against health care reform.

It reminds me a lot of the little boy who continued to boast he and his dad had killed a bear.  Republicans, perhaps, have contributed slightly to the alteration of the American population opinion on health care; but they have done so with collaboration with special interest lobbyists who have spent millions each month in opposing health care reform.  

Republicans claim they do not know what’s in the bill, but apparently they know all they need to know to oppose it; and that cogent fact is that the bill is opposed by special interests such as pharmaceutical companies, as well as health insurance companies.

Clearly, the current bill has its shortcomings.  There is plenty that needs fixing with the American system of delivering health care to its citizens.  While it is often said the U.S. has the finest health care in the world, this is not necessarily true for all Americans.  I will concede that America has the finest technology, technique and the best medical treatment that can be found.  Unfortunately, however, too many Americans do not have access to the upper-level standard of medical care available to some in this country.  Several other countries in the world, including Cuba, have better access for more of its citizenry than we do.  

President Obama struck a nerve with many American citizens, particularly the poor, when he campaigned advocating overhauling our system of health in this country. Having too many people uninsured and uninsurable is a problem for those with long-term, life-threatening illnesses or injuries; poor people not being able to have access to specialists and hospitals being overwhelmed with uncompensated care at their emergency rooms.  

All of these are big problems for too many of our citizens. These problems form a long enough list without starting in on abuses by uncaring, money-grubbing insurance companies who care little about health care and a lot about profit.

Perhaps for the Democrats who know more about the bill than I, they truly believe it to be an act of courage to support a bill which is disfavored in all of the public opinion polls by a majority of American citizens.  Perhaps the bill will fix enough wrongs with our health system to be a positive step forward and ultimate reform of that system.

On balance, my tendency is to agree with Dr. Howard Dean, former national chairman of the Democratic Party, that because creating an option to compete with insurance companies has been dropped from the bill, it likely is not substantive enough to waste the political capital in trying to pass it.  

Were I a political consultant directing the National Democratic Party, I would advise to let the Republicans kill it. To me, the political issue would be more valuable to the Democratic Party than the small and weak reforms the compromised bill may accomplish.  

Were the bill to die, Democrats could explain to families who were going bankrupt because of having to treat a loved one’s incurable cancer, that it was the Republicans’ fault they were not covered by insurance. They could explain to grieving parents their child could not see a specialist who might offer a cure because there is no government-sponsored insurance to cover the necessary procedures to save their child’s life.  Blame it on the Republicans! They killed the bill!

On the other hand, if Democrats force the bill through Congress, everything wrong which befalls an American citizen in need of health care will be blamed on the Democrats for either placing impediments to free enterprise type medical care or failing to include a remedy in the bill.

I truly hope the measure amounts to a profile in courage because it carries a tremendous political risk.

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