by Thomas Hinton
For several months, the Senate Finance Committee has labored to draft healthcare legislation. Its original intent was to help millions of uninsured Americans gain access to affordable healthcare. What began as a noble cause has deteriorated to the point where the proposed legislation looks more like a rescue bill for the health insurance industry than a lifeline for 36 million uninsured Americans.
For now, healthcare reform has become Senator Max Baucus' healthcare debacle. Senator Baucus, the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, claims to support universal healthcare as well as a public option for health insurance. However, he cannot seem to wiggle free from the chains of the health insurance lobby that has padded his campaign coffers with nearly $3 million in contributions. How can such a person make a rational decision and act without bias towards the best interest of our nation? The fact is he can't.
What confounds me is why this issue is so difficult. We are the richest nation in the world and yet, we are the only industrialized nation that does not provide its citizens universal healthcare coverage, let alone affordable access to the world's finest professional healthcare system. Yes, it costs money; and, yes, taxpayers must foot the bill. But, if the Congress does not act quickly and authorize a sensible long-term solution to our growing healthcare crisis, we will be saddled with trillions of dollars in healthcare costs that no one will be able to afford.
I believe the real healthcare question before us is an ethical question. Does the government of the United States of America have an ethical responsibility to all its citizens to provide them affordable access to healthcare? If the answer is yes -- and I believe it is -- then related issues such as how Americans access physicians, hospitals and clinics -- and whether the government creates a single-payer system or allows the current multi-payer system to remain in place -- are much easier to solve.
But, Senator Baucus and other Democratic senators cowered in the face of minority opposition. They voted down amendments to include the public option insurance program and, instead, endorsed a watered-down healthcare bill that will not meet the needs of the uninsured. His committee was asked to create a race horse and, instead, it created a camel! The proposed legislation will not solve the problem of rising healthcare costs. It only builds on the financial interests of greedy health insurance companies who already have veto power over medical insurance claims and the authority to deny treatment to thousands of Americans who desperately need medical attention and life-saving care.
If the Congress continues down its current path, the end result will be a significant defeat for the Democratic majority who have, thus far, squandered their electoral goodwill and grossly disappointed a significant majority of Americans who elected this Congress to bring about change. Part of the "change" covenant includes facing down the minority opposition that has crippled our nation economically during the previous eight years and standing up for those Americans whose voices have not been heard in years. Now is the time for the Democratic-controlled Congress to flex its muscle and have the courage to pass meaningful healthcare reform that insures the uninsured. Damn the opposition and full speed ahead! It's time the Congress did what's right!
About the Author. Thomas Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council and a frequent speaker at corporate and association meetings on business excellence topics. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org