I can say unequivocally that the debate in the Senate over health care reform has been the messiest process I have witnessed since I first came to Washington more than 20 years ago. As a liberal, I'm angry and frustrated over all the compromises we've had to make. It's just not fair that after all the work we did to get pro-reform lawmakers in control of the Congress and the most liberal President since LBJ elected, we've ended up with reform that doesn't really feel like reform at all.
But then I think back to the last time we tried to reform our broken health care system with former President Clinton in 1994. Remember what we achieved that time? Nothing. And the failure contributed to the election of reactionary conservative majorities in Congress that propped up the status quo on health care and rolled back decades of progress on all the issues for which ADA has fought - social and economic justice, workers' rights, peace-oriented foreign policy, and more.
I admit there is a part of me that wants to throw in the towel. But the better part of me, the part that remembers the years when conservatives dominated every branch of our government, that shudders at the thought of failing now, of not passing at least some reforms. That's what I said Sunday on the Rick Smith Show and I haven't changed my mind today.
The Senate will pass a bill with nothing to control sky-rocketing health care costs like the public option or Medicare buy-in but it does have some positive reform. It bans insurance companies from dropping their customers who get sick and prevents them from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. It also helps make insurance more affordable for 30 million people who lack coverage. That's progress. And when the time comes to make additional reforms, there will be less ground to cover than if we give up now because the Senate bill isn't perfect.
The House has passed a bill that is a better reflection of our values as liberals. When the Senate finishes its work this week the next step will be a conference committee to settle differences between the two versions. This is the next fight for those of us who want real reform. Contact your Representative, Senators and President Obama and tell them to fight for the House version of the bill.
This is likely to be the last News and Notes you will get from ADA until after the New Year. But you can keep up with the fight for real health care reform by following ADA on our Facebook fan page.
Best wishes to all of you this holiday season and here's hoping we all have a bright, liberal New Year.
Michael J. and the rest of the ADA staff
PS. Tell us what you think.