I remember reading President John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage when I was a girl and being inspired by the recounting of Senators standing up to colleagues and constituents alike to speak out and vote on principle for what they thought was in the highest interest of the nation. Courage was the word that has most frequently come to mind with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known and the Health Reform Bill, Sunday night in the House of Representatives. Despite levels of vitriol not seen since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, complete with shouting, spitting, and name-calling outside and inside the Chamber, Democratic members of Congress came together to lead. With this bill the administration made a statement about who we are as a nation, as a people, a nation that cares and supports all its citizens, a nation that understands that a foundation of health is necessary for enjoyment of all our constitutional rights and the many privileges of living and working in this great country, a nation that can find money for peace as well as war.
Some say that this is a government take-over of healthcare. It is not. Insurance companies, drug manufacturers, and hospitals are still standing and benefit from more insured. Small businesses are key beneficiaries and there will greater opportunities for job mobility without fear of losing and never regaining insurance coverage one can afford. Patients benefit. Almost all of us will have a “pre-existing condition” if we live long enough.
Some say it costs too much. How much is too much for health? Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “The first wealth is health”. We would do well to remember that. Do we need to do more to reduce (not just shift) costs of healthcare while maintaining/improving quality? Yes. However, one bill is not required to do all things.
If the purpose of government in a capitalistic, constitutional democracy is to do collectively what we cannot do individually to ensure a strong, stable and prosperous country then this Democratic Congress has done its job. They have my vote not only in the next election, but for the next edition of Profiles in Courage.