Health care reform is either going to happen within the next few weeks or it isn’t going to happen in this decade. If the Obama administration fails to push through some form of the legislation that is under consideration by Easter (less than a month from now), neither his nor a successor administration will touch the subject for years to come.
In other words, it’s do or die on what is for many Americans a matter of life and death.
Arguments for and against “Obamacare” have been tossed around for the better part of a year, even though it is only within the last month that the President has actually stated firmly what he wants (and even then, he stated it in true Obama-speak, leaving out more details than he specified).
The administration’s plan is to force the Senate version of the bill through the House on a straight up-or-down vote and then amend the new law (as it will then be) with a second bill that will be forced through both houses as a reconciliation measure. The result, if both bills become law, will be significant reform of the health care insurance industry (no more uninsurable “pre-existing conditions,” no loss of coverage coincident with the loss of a job), a mandate for an additional 30 million Americans to have health insurance, regulation of insurance premium increases, and a system of subsidies and tax credits for individuals and businesses that cannot on their own afford coverage for themselves or their employees.
It will cost under 900 billion dollars over ten years and will result in net savings to the federal budget of over 100 billion dollars.
It will also increase the choices consumers have in making health insurance decisions and will decrease the ability of insurance companies to ignore the needs of insured patients by refusing to allow doctor-ordered treatments and tests.
Sound good? It is if you believe the federal government should accept an active role in the health care that is available to American citizens. It is if you believe that access to health care should be more a right than a privilege in America. It is if you believe that the purpose of insurance should be to insure rather than to restrict.
So why, then, are the Republican members of both the House and the Senate in constant and unwavering lockstep in their opposition to this effort to reform the system (a system, it might be noted, that everyone agrees – albeit for different reasons – is not working and is not sustainable)?
Some, all right maybe many, of those who are adamantly opposed, are strictly playing politics with the issue. In other words, they want Obama to fail, they want the Democrats to fail, they want to get back in power.
But unless you are a tea-bagger or some other form of ill-informed but angry and frustrated American, you know that politics is not all that simple. For even if the Republican opposition to all-things-Obama is principally motivated by the thirst for power, there is a basic morality that creates that thirst.
For, in the end, it is morality, or one’s view of that concept, that creates the ideologies that direct the policies of those on the left and those on the right of the political spectrum.
For those on the left, the morality of healthcare reform is that no one should suffer from ill health needlessly or because a bureaucratic system denies him or her available care. In America, that care is available. The problem isn’t with the quality of our health care; it’s with its accessibility.
For those on the right, it’s a little more complicated. The morality of the health care issue for those on the right is all tied up in the idea of freedom. Freedom is almost prayerful to Republicans, and it (or some variant of it) is used in all contexts of domestic and foreign policy.
“Iraqis should be free to choose their own destiny,” was a talking point in the months leading up to the invasion of that country. “Americans should be freed from the oppressive nature of high taxes,” was one that Ronald Reagan put in play a generation ago. “Free markets are the best way to secure prosperity for all,” is the mantra that the Chicago School of Economics devised in the latter half of the last century.
All of this talk about freedom probably has some link to the most fundamental of freedoms from the perspective of those on the right – free will. The freedom to choose what to believe, and more specifically whether to believe in God, is the essence of conservative thinking. It is their morality.
Conservatives reject wholeheartedly anything akin to Hobbesian determinism. That concept might make sense in a physical world where cause and effect control. But in the human mind, the human soul, there is a freedom to choose, and it must be preserved and cherished at all costs (unless of course it is the freedom to choose what to do with one’s own body when it is impregnated, but that’s another story for another day).
And so, Americans must be free of all government programs or directives or regulations. The purest form of government is the one that does nothing other than assure the freedom of its peoples. Thus, all federal spending that is directed at anything other than protection (from foreign invasion, domestic violence, and crimes against personal property) is wasteful at best and immoral at worst.
The foregoing is only hyperbolic in the means I have chosen to express the thought. In fact, it represents the core of conservative morality, and I speak as one who in my youth adhered closely to that view of morality.
And if you understand what I have just expressed, you may begin to understand why the Republican Party, politics aside, is so adamantly opposed to the Obama health care reforms.
It isn’t that those reforms might not work to alleviate suffering for millions of Americans; it’s that they deny the freedom of Americans to choose for themselves how to live their lives.