Health care reform: One battle won, more battles to come

The signing into law of the new health care reform package has all the earmarks of a historic victory in more ways than one.

It was not all that any of us wanted - but neither was Social Security to earlier generations when it was first enacted into law. It was in the course of subsequent battles that it was improved.

Similarly, health care reform will take many more fights and a radically changed political environment before it becomes fully enshrined in the Bill of Rights, as an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing free health care for all as a basic human right.

To those who attack the law I say:

Ask a person with pre-existing conditions who cannot get medical care at a reasonable cost, or at all, what they think. Or ask the working class family, whose income falls between the poorest who are entitled to Medicaid and the rich who need no help, what they think.

The law is the federal government's biggest attack on economic inequality since President Reagan 30 years ago began the offensive to redistribute wealth in favor of the large corporations and the rich.

Big chunks of the money to pay for the law come from payroll taxes of households earning more that a quarter of a million dollars and from cutting medical subsidies for private insurers.

Unfortunately, some pitted single payer, in which the private insurance carriers are put out of business, against this legislation in its changing permutations.

These folks fail to appreciate the importance of struggling for partial demands that can be won in the short run because they are broadly supported while pressing for more advanced demands that may not yet have wide support but that can be won in the course of struggle.

Even if single payer were widely supported by the public, as some claim, that certainly was not the case in Congress, especially in the Senate.

That we could not win the public option despite majority public support for it was mainly the function of the present balance of forces in the Senate, where it was blocked by a rock-solid Republican opposition and weak-kneed conservative Democrats.

Unlike the new health care law, Social Security and Medicare were initially passed with majorities that included a substantial number of Republicans in both houses of Congress.

In 1935 Republicans in the House voted in favor of Social Security 81 for, 15 against; in the Senate 16 for, 5 against.

In 1965 House Republicans voted for Medicare, 70 for, 68 against; in the Senate 13 for, 17 against.

Instead, last week Republicans gave health care legislation a big zero in both houses of Congress.

The Republican Party of today has evolved into the political home of the most reactionary sections of big business and of the far right.

To me, today's health care battle points to two things:

One, that it was a formidable opposition that had to be overcome, making the victory all the more significant.

Two, if we expect to improve on this piece of legislation or not lose ground on it, we'd better do everything in our power to defeat more Republican members of Congress in November and, where possible, replace more conservative Democrats with more liberal if not progressive ones in the primaries.

One of the significant things about the health care victory is that it's re-energizing the coalition that elected President Obama, especially at the grassroots.

At the same time, it is disorienting the Republican rightwing opposition.

Despite the nay-sayers, President Obama, progressive and even moderate legislators, organized labor, the people's movements, and a majority of Americans who backed the main tenets of the health care package deserve a big hand for a job well done under heavy political fire.

With the wind at our back, a more confident labor and people's movement can now move to the next major fight - bank and financial regulation, jobs and immediate relief for the people - on the way to the crucial midterm elections.



Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


    WE are surrounded by idiots who applaud there own slavery..

    Willard, Ohio

    Posted by C Fetter, 04/10/2010 11:47pm (6 years ago)

  • You really think you are going to live in a communist nirvana? The elite will run your life, and you applaud your chains..
    not to mention you write this bull excrement on blood bought soil..

    Willard, Ohio

    Posted by C Fetter, 04/10/2010 11:40pm (6 years ago)

  • If the bill was so good, why did they have to force the vote and not get any Republicans support? Why does the bill include 2700 pages with many having nothing to do with Health Care? Why are people forced to buy it if it were so good? Why did Congress and the Senate not want to be a part of this new plan? Why if you take care of yourself, are you having to pay for people that smoke, drink, take drugs, and are overweight? Why are people that make more money than others singled out while the poor are hailed as heros? Will this work, the simple answer is no. No society in history has survived as half steals from the other half. Grow up brother!

    Posted by John Galt, 04/07/2010 4:57pm (6 years ago)

  • Single payer/Medicare For All did not fail to be passed simply because of Republican and conservative Democratic opposition. It was never even given a chance to be discussed by design! Max Baucus the democratic senator and chair of the Senate Finance Committe had single payer activists ejected and arrested last year when they asked why was single payer not even being discussed?

    Even the White House refused to give the subject any real discussion. President Obama refused to debate the issue with Dr. Margaret Flowers from Physicians for a National Health Program as recently as a month ago!

    Both Baucus and Obama received substanial amounts of money from the healthcare cartel. Baucus since 2003 around $4 million. Obama just in '08 for his campaign received $20 million from the healthcare interests!

    Any wonder why REAL healthcare reform was squashed?

    Posted by Pancho Valdez, 04/06/2010 12:44pm (6 years ago)

  • Single payer is definitely on the horizon at the state level in more than one place. This is a fight that we can't back down from, even though it will be more strongly opposed by insurance companies.

    Posted by MAR Diddams, 04/01/2010 4:45am (6 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments