Monday, December 21, 2009

My Health Care Reform FLIP-FLOP

Greg Jones
National Director

I, as many of you, have worked for months toward health care reform and lately some have been surprised by my lack of automatic enthusiasm of the bill as being proposed by the Senate. I have had a number of concerns since my primary objective has always been to see that the needs of the 47 million hard-working Americans who are struggling through life without the basic right to access quality health care are met. I have been very vocal about the vital urgency of affordability and how, without it there should be no mandate. I have voiced my disappointment of the secrecy of the Senate's process as well as the reports stating that the bill may not go into a full conference for amendments or changes to be made to the Senate's version, resulting in the bill being signed off basically as-is by Speaker Nancy Pelosi , then sent directly to The President for final signing.

But call it an EPIPHANY. Call it a flip-flop. Call it what you want but the more I see about what this health care reform bill will do for those in need, the more I LOVE IT ! Now don't get me wrong, there are a number of components of the bill that will need to be worked on or improved in the future, but I now truly feel that this is in fact an incredibly historic bill that will save the lives of many. One thing that prompted my transformation and makes me feel very good about the bill is certain things that I heard during last nights debate before the 1AM cloture vote. When I wrote my original draft of this piece I spelled it all out, word for word. Then, after listening to some right-wing radio today, and their declaration to ratchet up any and all obstruction they can muster to block the bill's passing, I deleted my 'breakdown' of what I feel is ahead to make certain of not supplying their much needed ammunition. And forgive my evasiveness but let's just say that I now have a clearer understanding of what Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Ia) meant when he said that the passing of the bill is "like buying the starter home; we're not done". In fact, he is now openly saying " we're going to revisit the public year we can revisit it. There are other ways to get it ". (hope he's not being TOO open)

So I now see the strategy. An incredibly effective move on the part of the Democrats. They're going to push this bill through, possibly having Speaker Pelosi sign-off on the bill with minimal changes to get it to The President's desk as quickly and untouched as possible, and once signed into law, during the formulation period, they plan to slide in some of the changes reflective of what we all want. All hoopla free. Absolutely BRILLIANT.

So yes, I now see the true greatness of what is transpiring here. For the first time in seven Presidencies a health reform bill will be passed that no longer allows insurance companies to refuse coverage to someone because of having a pre-existing condition. For the first time millions of Americans will have access to truly affordable coverage erasing the embarrassing need for traveling, make-shift free clinics like a third-world country. Now, more people who fall in the lower economic bracket will be covered through Medicaid while seniors will have less burden with the so-called doughnut hole they have been forced to deal with. This bill will limit big-buck executive compensation and administrative costs of the insurance profiteers while creating an exchange that will give care seekers various options.

Through the passing of this bill , and thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) there will be a $10 BILLION investment in community health centers. Sanders has stated that this investment will "help bring about a revolution in primary health care in America and create new or expanded health centers in an additional 10,000 communities. The provision would also work toward creating an additional 20,000 primary care doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and mental health professionals for expanded mental health counseling". It is also anticipated that the community centers will save Medicaid billions of dollars by providing primary care to those in need. Sanders is also giving a significant hint of future improvements to the bill by saying, "the day after this bill passes we can improve it'.

While those are but a few of the incredible benefits of this historic health care bill, there are still elements of concern. Although many of the pre-existing clauses kick-in immediately (which is great) the start date for the majority of the plan is 2014, longer than I would like to have seen. The Medicaid costs to states could pose a future problem as states struggle financially. Here in Ohio they have just decided to stop giving prisoners coffee as a way to save money. Due to the fact that the Senate bill allows the insurance companies to charge up to 3 times the normal rate for older aged people and those with pre-existings, there will be a need for stern monitoring of this aspect to assure affordability, something that I feel The President will stay on top of due to his mother's personal experience with this issue.

One of the other issues that has been of great concern of mine has been the mandate/law which requires all individuals to purchase coverage or be penalized. My concern had always been the thought of penalizing someone for being guilty of not earning enough money. But we are now getting reports, although unconfirmed, that there is what they're calling a 'hardship clause' in the bill which will make those who truly can not afford coverage exempt from the mandate, a component of the bill that I find to be absolutely great.

One thing for sure is the fact that our current health care system has been terrible. I live in Cleveland, Ohio, home of The Cleveland Clinic, one of the finest medical facilities in all the world. But up until now, due to the lack of health care coverage, a large majority of Clevelanders could only hope for the day that they may be able to access such a fine facility. This bill creates that opportunity and serves as evidence of the Democratic idea that, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stating during the cloture debate, "health care is a right" proven by the filibuster proof 60 votes last night which included every Democratic Senator, even those originally labeled as obstructionists like Senators Lieberman, Baucus, Lincoln, Landrieu and even the Blue Dogs, all under the powerful leadership of Senator Harry Reid; all of which-in my opinion-actually deserve a sincere hat-tip.

In my own defense, although I have been a strong supporter of President Obama since 2004, which lead me to create Blacks4Barack in February of 2007 to invigorate and stimulate support toward The Presidency, I will always study the issues to determine what is best for our country and the American people before automatically signing-on. That's just the way I am. And when it comes to this health care bill...I Feel Good !

Throughout the entire campaign and since day one in office, "Yes We Can" has been the driving motto promoted by President Barack Obama. In just 11 months in office he has achieved more than most Presidents have done in 8 years with much more yet ahead. The passing of this historic health care reform bill will not only illustrate the tenacity, vision and determination of a great Leader, but also displays 'The Power of WE'...those who have fought the good fight and will continue to do so, working together in Unity, for The Recovery of America. Very special thanks to all of The Warriors....and Thank You Mr. President. Now, it may not be perfect (yet) but let's get the bill passed !

Greg Jones