As we learned the results of the Massachusetts Senate race, we all knew we would need to re-examine our options to get a final health reform bill through Congress. On Wednesday morning, discussion about our next move was rife with speculation and ambiguity. And while I think we need to take a deep breath and thoughtfully evaluate how we're going to get this done, I am convinced that one of the proposals--to chop up the legislation and pass it in several pieces over several months--is imprudent and impractical.
It's important to remember that when we tried to reform health care in the 1990s, neither the House nor the Senate ever actually passed bills. What we're doing now is far from a rehash of that effort. Over the last seven months, we have come a long way through the process, and we have succeeded in producing two broadly similar bills. Enacting chunks of these bills in a piecemeal process over a period of time would undo the progress we've made, and I hope my colleagues in Congress will join me in opposing this route. Just because we hit a bump in the road doesn't mean we should abandon the car.
Late last year, I wrote about how this process is like building a House of Health. We are trying to get everyone inside the house first--meaning everyone should have access to health care coverage--knowing we will fix the drapes and decide what knobs to put on the cabinets later. Hacking apart the bills we've already passed is like trying to get everyone into a house without a roof. We can build on the on the Senate bill, improve it, and cover 31 million uninsured people while turning the corner on runaway costs.
While I understand the urgency to get this bill finished, it's imperative that we work with the Senate to pass the strongest bill possible--that means getting all Americans covered and holding insurance companies far more accountable than they are now. We have at least until the President's State of the Union Address next Wednesday to finish working on a compromise between the two versions of the bill, and we need to take the practical road together or else we risk jeopardizing all the work we've done.
We should take what we have from these two bills and find a workable compromise. I don't think it makes any sense to drop what has been accomplished and start down a new path. While the Massachusetts election was a setback, it needn't spell the death of health care reform if we refuse to let that happen. Certainly, the bills we have are not perfect, but it is foolish to abandon them and all of the work they represent. We can still finish the job and see President Obama sign a comprehensive health care reform bill into law.