Regardless of what happens today in Massachusetts, the health care bill is still worth passing, still a mission worth fighting for.
Since my brother, Eric De La Cruz, passed away on July 4th, 2009 -- in part because he could not get insurance due to a pre-existing condition -- I've traveled the country, mobilizing people to get involved and apply pressure to our elected leaders to pass health care reform.
That journey has been not only a healing process for me, but also an awakening to just how endangered the species of "change" is in the American political environment today. Given the implied mandate for health care reform that seemingly came with Barack Obama's election, I've been amazed at the political gauntlet laid before health care reform by a legislative system in need of reform itself. Reform to rid itself of the legalized bribery that "campaign financing" has become, the wholly undemocratic abuse of procedural rules in Congress, and the outright lies that continue to bubble forth from the GOP and well-funded shills for the Big PhRMA and Insurance industries, who all seem to be working hard to forever preserve a broken system that views people as bottom lines rather than human lives.
Some people I've met on the road ask, "Is the health care reform bill even worth fighting for anymore?"
To that I can only say, "Hell, yes!"
In private moments, I could never even imagine asking my brother -- who would have immediately benefited from such legislation -- to think about quitting on something this important.
The greater the emphasis on perfection, the further it recedes
Eric, who was diagnosed with severe dilated cardiomyopathy more than five years ago, was also an artist, musician and designer. He knew better than most that perfection in anything, whether it be art or politics, was a dangerous, illusory concept.
The notion that, because we may end up with something less than the ideal reform progressives envisioned a year ago, we should discard this bill and start over from scratch is logic as flawed as any bill. Killing this bill means unnecessary suffering to tens of millions of people who are in real need right now and who will benefit from this bill, as flawed as it is. The idea that we are "settling" for something not worth having simply because it falls short of the ideal ignores how historically difficult -- and, yes, sometimes lengthy -- the process of truly fundamental governmental reform can be. And, of course, if we don't pass health care reform now, our next chance will likely not come for at least another decade, which is truly something we need to think about.
Imperfect as it may be, the Senate bill does three incredibly important things:
1. It lays out a new system through which people who don't have reliable or complete coverage through their work can obtain the type of group health insurance that employees in big companies get.
2. It allocates hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid to enable people to buy coverage, through "exchanges" as well as through expanded Medicaid.
3. Finally, what would have been most important for Eric, it puts for-profit private insurers under new, tighter regulations that will end their ability to discriminate against the sick.
Had this bill been in effect years ago when my brother was diagnosed, it would have helped him obtain the coverage he needed for treatment that would have saved his life.
No, it's not perfect -- far from it. But it's a start.
The presence of a public option in the bill would go much farther toward ensuring greater cost reduction and universal coverage. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill still grants an anti-trust exemption to insurance companies, which is a big problem yet to be fixed. But many of the provisions in this bill are still worthy achievements that set the stage for further change in the future. Again, something that we should not only think about, but celebrate.
Today there is an important election in Massachusetts for the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat -- a race which could make Kennedy's dream of universal health care seem a lot more distant if it is won by the Republican candidate. But regardless of what happens today, we -- the people -- need to finish health care reform. My brother fought a much harder and difficult battle for his own life. For any of us to give up on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change our future and potentially save the millions of other "Eric's" out there, just because the bill isn't perfect, is out of the question.
Please make it out to the polls today if you live in Massachusetts, or make a few calls to those who do. Find out how and read more about my brother's plight at www.EricsLaw.com.