Medical bills bankrupt more Americans than any other kind of expense. While patients avoid medical treatment because they cannot afford it, the best doctors work on cash-only basis so they can provide patients with the quality care HMOs don’t allow. When hospitals drop relationships with health insurance companies, because they cannot get invoices paid, real people suffer. Unless you’re a Capitol Hill fat cat with choice government health benefits, or a high-paid big pharma executive or insurance company lobbyist, chances are you are deeply affected, and possibly disappointed, by the current debate over healthcare reform.
Progressive liberals want to see affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage for every citizen who needs it. Conservatives worry that including measures such as a government-run “public health insurance option,” even though it would be financed solely through premiums paid by citizens, will bankrupt the health insurance industry. Supporters of the current healthcare reform bill in the Senate (HR 3590) need 60 votes to ratify it. By including a public option, supporters of the bill fell short of the needed votes, and to gain support from moderate senators, the public option was dropped. An expanded Medicare option was then put forward as a compromise, so that at least citizens aged 55 to 64 would be able to buy-in to Medicare. They needed 60 votes, but fell short of passing the measure. By one vote.
Whose vote? Well, most people lay the blame at the feet of fence-sitting Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a former democrat turned independent who had earlier supported the option to allow citizens aged 55 to 64 to buy-in to Medicare. It came as a surprise then when, on Sunday, he announced that he would not be supporting it. He did more than withdraw his support, however. Without the support of Senator Lieberman, the best shot at vote #60, the measure is pretty much dead in the water. Pundits are reporting that there is no animosity among Senate democrats for Senator Lieberman’s position but let me say for the record: there is a ton of public animosity for Senator Lieberman and his agenda. Healthcare isn’t something you can refuse. The Senator’s bogus concerns about money never seemed to stop him from supporting the cost of every military action we’ve seen in the last ten years. He’s never batted an eyelash at the billions of dollars frittered away on defense and military programs, even when they were of questionable merit and without the support of a large part of the American public.
When you’re trying to figure out why we will have troops on their third or fourth tour of duty in a place where we’re not wanted, and you’re contemplating whether you’ll pay the hospital or electric company this month (because you can’t pay both!), make sure to thank Senator Lieberman. Then write to Congress and let them know how you feel about it.
by Melissa Garcia Logan