Health Care Reform
Nov 13, 2009 by Dieumeme Noelliste | 0 Comments
On November 7, in a late night and marathon session, the House of Representatives passed its version of the long-awaited health care reform bill on a 220-215 vote. As expected the vote was overwhelmingly along party lines, with only one lone Republican congressman breaking rank with his party to support the proposed legislation.
I must confess that the vote came as sort of a surprise to me. For, following the November 3 election at which the ruling Democratic party lost decisively two governorships (despite the efforts of President Obama on behalf of the losing candidates), one sensed that perhaps momentum for the movement of change that the President championed so vehemently during the Presidential campaign, may have suffered a significant setback. This feeling was further fueled when the Majority Leader of the Senate raised the possibility that the Senate may not be able to vote on a bill until next year. Frustrated by that prospect, some even called on President Obama to evoke the power given to him in the Constitution and order Congress to work nonstop until it sends a bill to the Oval Office.
Having said that, those who believe in the need and urgency of the reform of our health care system should be heartened by the new development. Most analysts hailed the vote as the most advanced stride in the seventy-year history of the reform effort. Some even viewed the House vote as the crossing of the Rubicon. At this stage, they opined, reform is bound to happen.
My view is that encouraging and groundbreaking as the vote was, it may be overly optimistic to view it as signaling the inevitability of meaningful and imminent reform. There are other major hurdles that must be crossed before that moment arrives. The Senate still has to pass its own version of reform. And the bills approved by the two chambers must still be reconciled before the President is given something to consider for approval.
Why am I so cautious? In a previous piece, I argued that competing self-interests represented the greatest challenge that had to be overcome if meaningful reform were to occur. This seems no longer to be the case. Though concern for the protection of self-interest is still there, it seems fair to say that much progress has been made on this score. At the moment it seems clear that if real reform is to take place there must be the requisite political will. If genuine reform of the system is to happen, our lawmakers need to show the courage to act in a manner that transcends the concern for short-term political gains. They must display the foresight to bracket political expediency in favor of a wider vision and a higher ideal.
In arguing for the demonstration of such magnanimity, I am not gainsaying the fact that our system of government accords an important place to politically astute maneuverings and clever political calculations. Checks and balances are at the heart of our political life. My contention is that there are times when the desire for political success which motivates the employment of such political machinations, should take a back seat in deference to the service of the common good. I believe that a task so grandiose and far-reaching as health care reform deserves such a treatment. It is clear to me that a thorough and meaningful overhauling of our health care apparatus falls in the category of those groundbreaking decisions whose significance dwarfs any short-term political advantage. Indeed, I would contend that one’s contribution to the crossing of these historical landmarks brings a far more glorious and lasting recognition and a far more secure place in history than the winning of another term of office.
In the Bible, Queen Esther illustrates the kind of statesmanship and uncommon foresight that I’m calling for here. When she realized that the well-being and the life of her own people was at stake, she not only decided to put her political career on the line, but her very life. “I’ll go to the king, even if is against a royal decree. If I die, I die” (Esther 4:15). May our political leaders also realize this and act accordingly.