“The health insurance industry is the shark that swims just below the water, and you don’t see that shark until you feel the teeth of that shark.” – Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Despite the bipartisan health care summit, the shark is still circling. During the great airing of grievances, it became immediately clear that both Democrats and Republicans are confident in their interpretation of what the American people want and need.
A minor exchange between John McCain and President Obama provided a flashback to campaign days, and the stack of papers representing the Senate bill was referred to as a “prop” by the President.
A recurring theme on the Republican side was the admonition to start over with a “clean sheet of paper,” and “incremental changes.” The terms “government takeover” and “best health care system in the world” were sprinkled liberally throughout. Republican John Boehner:
“I think this right here (indicating the Senate bill) is a dangerous experiment. We may have problems in our health care system, but we do have the best health care system in the world by far, and having the government taking over health care, and I believe that’s what this is, is a dangerous experiment with the best health care system in the world, which I don’t think we should do.”
Democrats included an abundance of stories from constituents denied coverage, including some who died, calling the practice “cruel.” Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) hit a sensitive nerve, verbalizing to his colleagues what many Americans have said:
“Step back for a second and look at who we are in this room… the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, administered by the federal government, setting minimum standards for the health insurance that we enjoy as individuals and want for our families, is all we’re asking for in this bill for families across America. If you think it’s a socialist plot and it’s wrong — for goodness sakes — drop out of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, but if you think it’s good enough for your family, shouldn’t our health insurance be good enough for the rest of America? That’s what it gets down to. Why have this double standard… why do we continue to discriminate against people when we know that each one of us is only one accident or one diagnosis away from being one of those unfortunate few who can’t find or can’t afford insurance?”
Sounds like a challenge to me… any member of Congress who believes that this type of health insurance is part of a socialist agenda should give up their coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. It will never happen, I know, but it is a fair challenge, to ask members of Congress to live what they preach so fervently.
There was a familiarity to the statements on both sides, and little in the way of negotiations or seeking of common ground.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in addition concisely clearing up misconceptions about federal funding for abortions and benefit cuts for seniors, said this about about employment:
“Imagine an economy where people could change jobs, become self-employed, pursue their artistic aspirations, or be entrepreneurial and start new businesses if they were not job-locked because they have a child who is bipolar or a family member who is diabetic or other pre-existing condition, and all of the other constraints that having health care — or not having health care — places on an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s about jobs.”
The President closed the summit by insisting that he is not advocating a government takeover of health care and calling on Republicans to “do a little soul-searching and find out — are there some things that you’d be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance and dealing seriously with the pre-existing condition issue.”
“Politically speaking, there may not be any reason for Republicans to want to do anything,” he said. “But I thought it was worthwhile for us to make this effort.”
To viewers who already have a strong opinion regarding health care reform, the summit was simply an opportunity to solidify those opinions rather than a look into bi-partisan efforts to improve health care in America.
Progress? Perhaps at least as far as civility goes, but the shark is still in the water.
Related reading on Care2:
- Health Care Reform 101: It’s Time You (not your insurance company) had Control over Your Health Insurance