I can’t be the only one who feels startled at the abrupt arrival of March. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the high point of February was a giant pillow fight. The short month seemed to go downhill from there, concluding with yet another devastating earthquake and the Bipartisan Health Care Reform Summit in Washington DC. Thankfully, March is here. Aside from bringing a much-needed Spring Break, March is also the one year mark of Obama’s push for health care reform. A full year has passed since our representatives and senators began the debate for reform, and I can’t help but wonder: how far have we really come?
The “bipartisan” summit clearly defined the difference between Republicans and Democrats regarding health care reform. You didn’t need to watch all seven hours of the discussion to recognize the dichotomy: Republicans want to scrap the whole reform plan and start from the beginning, while Democrats want to move forward, with or without a public option.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could start from the beginning? If I could, I would rewind to the 1920’s and prevent private insurers from gaining arbitrary power over the health of a nation. Nearly a century later, America doesn’t have a health care system–we have a health care market. This market has a rope around the neck of America. “The Institute of Medicine, using older studies, estimated that one American dies every 30 minutes from lack of health insurance,” said David Himmelstein, a Harvard medical professor who co-authored a recent study. “Even this grim figure is an underestimate — now one dies every 12 minutes.” Because of their denial of coverage and unaffordable rates, American lives are being lost and insurance companies have the blood on their hands. Regrettably, and unethical as it is, these corporations are so deeply entrenched in American politics that overhauling the system isn’t realistic.
Just two weeks ago Anthem Blue Cross announced a 40% increase for California insurance holders, forcing many Californians out of insurance coverage. On Tuesday, President Obama received ambiguous answers when he asked the nations top insurance executives the reason for these dramatic premium increases. In a well-intended emotional appeal, he read them a letter from a fifty-year-old woman whose premiums have risen 65% in the past two years. Unfortunately, conversation will not improve the insurance industry. Action needs to be taken.
On the other hand, moving forward on health care reform without a public option is hardly a step in the right direction. Without a public option, “reform” only means adjusting the current business practice of private insurers. Without a public option, “reform” is a mere suggestion and will do about as much good as asking insurance CEOs to feel sympathy. Be that as it may, this is an emergency.
While Haiti and Chile suffer enormous losses after devastating earthquakes, America is in the midst of a very unnatural disaster. 46 million people live without health care in the wealthiest nation in the world. March 2010 needs to be more than just a one-year anniversary of a discussion about healthcare reform. Talk is cheap, and it is imperative that the filibuster end and Congress vote. Indecision is costing American lives. By this time next month, I hope to have a Spring Break suntan and a majority vote from Congress.