Thoughts on health care: New bill is only beginning of progress

President Obama signed the health care reform bill into law Tuesday, after the House almost voted directly along party lines last Sunday to accept the version of the bill voted on in the Senate, and to add a series of addenda.

The signing of this bill is not a “triumph,” as the President called it. And it’s certainly not a victory for Democrats or a loss for Republicans. Nor is it the end of the world or the beginning of a new glorious age for humanity, as pundits and columnists from either side of the Great Divide will undoubtedly call it.

But it is progress nonetheless.

We are one step closer to improving our health care system and ensuring access to rights everyone should be privileged to – which, we need to be reminded, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The reality is that the passing of this bill isn’t the end of the struggle, but just the beginning. Now it is important to realize this issue is not political
in nature and never should have been.

Unfortunately, the broken health care system (and it is broken, or at the very least convoluted and muddied to the point where it ceases to perform its primary function of helping people) wasn’t going to fix itself, so it became political out of necessity.

Something had to be done because we could no longer stand around wringing our hands, saying “Yeah, health care is a mess, but it’s too difficult to change so we should do nothing.”

This new bill is neither perfect nor horrible. Now that it is becoming a reality we have to accept the true reform of health care will be a slow process. Not everything will work right away, and large portions of it will need to be
reworked, changed entirely or omitted altogether. But parts of it will improve the miserable condition of health care in the United States.

What works will be kept, what is broken will be fixed and in 50 years, people will wonder why our government spent so much time on an issue that shouldn’t even have been an issue.

But if anyone in the government thinks the passage of this bill is the end of the road and their “victory” is absolute, they are dreaming. The road ahead will be even more difficult because now we need to separate ego, political ideology and the “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality entirely from this issue.

Our politicians need to realize our health care is more important than them gaining party support, satisfying donors and supporters or ensuring re-election. And it’s sure as hell more important than being right or wrong.

Whether you agree with health care reform or strongly oppose it isn’t the issue; instead, the issue is getting those opinions heard. Those intelligent and informed individuals who are honestly afraid of what the government will do to health care are completely justified in their concerns: but these aren’t political concerns, they are human concerns.

This issue is grounded in human reality. Health care reform will really affect people’s lives, which is why politics shouldn’t factor into it at all. The current system is doing just as much harm as people fear the new system will, which is why progress –— even incremental progress — is necessary.

Not even President Obama can predict what will happen once the bill is signed into law. But now that we are on the path toward health care reform, there can be no turning back, only looking forward.

For those who disagree with it, your goal should not be to try to kill its passage and implementation but to try to improve it.

Opposing opinions are completely valid and they need to be heard. But for the sake of human progress we need to be positive and work toward a solution instead of holding for dear life to the anchors of our political beliefs and attacking anyone who we perceive as trying to get us to let go of them.

Criticism from both sides must be taken seriously. No more fear-mongering, no more brown-nosing to the president to gain political favor and no more of congress sitting around with their thumbs up their collective asses walking circles around issues that are really important to the American people.

My biggest fear was that at the end of more than a year of the political machine grinding away at this issue it would be defeated simply out of both politicians and citizens being afraid to embrace the unknown; that instead of trying to fix it, politicians who disagreed with it simply would try to derail progress because they didn’t have a better solution to the problem; and that this issue would be shot down because of politics, because of bitterness and fear, and then it would disappear for a while only to resurface once again, years later.

THAT is inaction. THAT is a lack of progress. THAT is the garbage both Republicans and Democrats are known for. This endless cycle needs to stop.

Progress needs to be made for progress’ sake, because otherwise why do we even have freedoms and rights and liberties? To just talk about them? To just yell at each other?

At the very least this is a moment of action for our government, which has long been plagued by inaction. Progress is being made, and even if you disagree with it now, I hope you realize your opinion can be used for more than just fanning the flames or going on the attack: this issue belongs to us, not the government.

If an improved health-care system is to become a reality (and I think everyone can agree improvements need to be made) then it will take intelligent, engaged and earnest people from both sides to make those improvements.

I truly believe that the president understands this bill isn’t perfect, and the undying optimist in me would like to believe that wasn’t the goal: the goal was to get it passed and then fix it, because it’s not something that can be fixed in one session of Congress, one presidential administration, one decade or even in one generation.

Chances are President Obama will be long out of office, and we will still be fixing this – but it won’t be because it’s a fiasco or because he made a mess out of things – it will be because progress is slow and steady.

And what this country needs more than anything right now is progress — real progress — which can only happen over time. If Obama is voted out in 2012 it will become the responsibility of the next administration to keep pressing congress and the people to fix this.

Even if we’re still working at this decades from now, progress will be made – but it will take all of us to get there. But if Obama is, in fact, voted out and the next administration simply comes in and goes through and undoes everything this President and this Congress has done – from a completely a-political standpoint it will an incredible blow to all of the values this country was built upon.

And that’s because the issue isn’t really about health care – it’s about ending the bureaucratic, self-serving and backwards methods that have entangled the political system in this country for decades.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.

“We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

His words have added meaning to them, because it’s as if he predicted a lack of progress would be this country’s ultimate undoing and he wanted to warn future generations about halting progress for the sake of promoting their own beliefs or struggling to stay afloat on the sinking S.S. Status Quo.

So, whether you spend this week being angry or celebrating, it’s of the utmost importance we all realize it’s not about today and it’s not about us: it’s about everyone and it’s about the future. It’s about ending inaction, embracing change (real change, not campaign change) and doing something because it’s right, not because it’s easy.

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