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What to make of the health care bill?

GB Geo-Blog

What to make of the health care bill?

The difficult — often tortured — passage of the U.S. health care bill earlier this week proved that Barack Obama is not another Jimmy Carter. He is a cerebral Democratic president commited to major reforms who, unlike Carter, can pass major legislation. A stubborn and unified Republican opposition, and a fragmented and disorganied Democratic party, almost prevented this from happening. Since January, Obama has put himself fully into this health care legislation, personally forcing it through all the many naysayers, stallers, skeptics, and extremists. Congratulations Obama for showing that progressive presidential leadership is still possible.

What will this mean now that the legislation has passed? The health care bill will provide access to insurance for millions of uninsured Americans, it will limit the ability of insurance companies to cherry pick the least risky clients, and it will provide young citizens (up to 26 years of age) with coverage through their parents while they seek jobs. All of this is important in guaranteeing basic health care access to previously neglected working citizens. It also sets a precedent not for big government, but for a pooling of a wealthy society’s resources to provide basic common goods, with some long-term cost savings, to a maximum number of deserving people.

Beyond health care, Obama now has some legislative momentum, at last. He has shown that he can mobilize, coerce, and persuade people. He has shown that he can turn the arcane rules of the Senate and the House of Representatives (in particular, the Budget Reconciliation process) to his advantage. Most of all, Obama has shown that he will stand up for what he believes, even if it is not easy. He needs to display more of that mettle in the next few months as he confronts challenges at home and abroad. He can take his next steps with real budget deficit discipline.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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