I stayed up last night to watch the vote, and was relieved when Congress got the 217 it needed to pass the long-awaited (and much-contested) health care bill. It’s been a long time coming, and hats off to President Obama and Speaker Pelosi for accomplishing something that no President or party has been able to do in a century. We now join the rest of the wealthy industrial nations in enabling our citizens access to affordable health care. It’s about time.
And our citizens sorely need it. We trail many nations in life expectancy, infant mortality and other such indicators, yet we have the best medical resources in the world. If you had access to this care you were charmed. All the members of Congress have it, all rich people have it, and when they get ill they don’t have to make choices between seeing a doctor and going without food.
But many don’t have it. My wife, a public health nurse who serves the underserved in our community, sees the results every day, and it isn’t pretty. Estimates have been around 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year because of lack of access to health care. I have seen it in my congregations for over 30 years; I have seen it in my own family.
With this bill, which is by no means perfect, and certainly not socialized medicine as some of the rhetoric of its overheated critics have called it, all that will change, although not right away.
I honestly didn’t think it would happen.
I’ll tell you where they were. They were with the rest of their party in deciding that the best strategy in dealing with the Obama victory a year ago was to do nothing to help him in any way. The GOP (the Grand Old Party) became the PON (the Party of No).
Not this time. Do you think this is a coincidence? No. It was a party-wide strategy of obstruction, and although I generally like to see a good opposition party, I hope they take a beating at the polls for their cowardice and mean-spiritedness.
The debate on the floor of Congress last night had some awful moments. Congressman Nunes of California called this modest bill totalitarian and likened it to Soviet-style Communism. One “honorable gentlemen” yelled out “baby killer” at the most pro-life Democrat in the Congress.
I am glad we got the bill, however modest. It will make the country a less heartless place. The Old Testament prophets used to judge the health of the nation by how it treats “the last, the least, and the lost” among us. By that measure we as a nation still stand under judgement.
Last night we did a little better, but we are still a country greatly divided, a country still hurting.