I give you multiple links today, all related to the President’s speech last night on healthcare.
Overall, I thought it was a really good speech with strong and specific messages. Of course Obama had the lofty rhetoric he is so good at (and how powerful to invoke Kennedy at the end) but, listening to him, you also got a clear sense of what direction he believes reform should take. Finding common ground means making compromises and I applaud the President for making that effort (not just on the malpractice issue – which I am skeptical of – but also on the emergency fund to bridge the gap before reforms can be enacted – a McCain idea – and an individual mandate to have coverage – a Clinton idea.) He seems dedicated to making this the best possible bill and I appreciate those efforts.
From Congressman Boustany’s really strong and thoughtful response it is clear there is a lot we can agree on, but that there are some big differences. I am heartened that Dr. Boustany highlighted some areas that are really important and indicated his support for them. To quote the Congressman on some areas of agreement, “One, all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions. Two, individuals, small businesses and other groups should be able to join together to get health insurance at lower prices, the same way large businesses and labor unions do. Three, we can provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor. And, four, insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention” In his response, he also commented that it is important for the plan to be affordable. He used that point to illustrate a difference that he has with the President, but I don’t see it that way. The President, in giving us his specifics, also explained how it would be paid for (without increasing the deficit) and offered to make spending cuts if projected savings are not realized. No “fact-checking” site I have seen disputes that he can pay for this without adding to the burden we are passing along to the next generation. But, even if it did, I’m comfortable increasing the national debt to ensure people can live full and healthier lives. Doesn’t seem like a bad use of money to me. However, just so that is not taken out of context, I believe the President when he says that it won’t.
However, agreement on these issues only gets us so far and there are still some significant differences, especially centered around the so-called public option. I was disturbed to hear Congressman Boustany repeat the oft-heard line about resisting reform now and starting over. He should know better than most that sometimes waiting is not the best choice. If there is a dying patient, you don’t wait weeks to perform the life-saving operation. In many cases, the longer you wait to provide care, the less likely your chances for success. Opponents of reform have succeeded for YEARS pushing the work off to the next congress, to the next president, to the next generation. Well, we are at a critical point now and pushing it off again could well cost people their lives or force them to choose between paying for medicine or food. Losing their home or losing their loved one. That I am not comfortable with.
To that point, to the progressives in Congress who are so wed to the idea of a Public Option, I think we need to hear the President when he says that that option is a “means to an end” and there are other ways of getting there. It is really important, over the coming weeks, all of you listen seriously to other proposals and actually consider them. Maybe co-ops are a better choice? Maybe something else is? We know what the end goal is – quality and affordable healthcare for all – and I submit to you that the Public Option is only one way of getting there. There are others and it behooves all of us for those to be given a fair chance and not rejected out of hand.
To my Democratic friends who would prefer to look at Dr. Boustany’s medical record or criticize him for trying to become a lord or further the “birther” movement, please stop. Let’s focus on ideas and not try to discredit someone through name-calling. As a final point, there are many issues still to debate and figure out. Here’s hoping we do it with the civility Dr. Boustany showed and not the immaturity we have seen at town halls and, thanks to Congressman Wilson, in the halls of Congress.