Well, it looks as if health care reform is going to pass. As you know, the Senate version was approved early on December 24, and one way or another the Senate and House versions will likely be harmonized, maybe even in time for the President’s signature before his State of the Union address late next month.
This is not an ideal health care bill. For the Republicans, of course, every health care bill is fatally flawed and to be strenuously opposed. Many Democrats, included the President, it seems, wanted things included in the health care bill that are not there. Many compromises were made, but such compromises had to be made in order to get the necessary votes to pass the bill.
The current issue of The Economist opines, “Every time someone tells you to ‘be realistic’ they are asking you to compromise your ideals” (pp. 38, 40). That is probably true. But the President and many senators had to be realistic and compromise their ideals to some degree in order to get a health care bill passed.
We have to realize that “politics is the art of compromise.” (I have been unable to find a source for that adage.) Also, “politics is the art of the possible” (Otto von Bismarck). As I wrote earlier, in spite of his fine Nobel Lecture, President Obama’s deployment of troops to Afghanistan showed the triumph of realism over idealism. And now with the health care bill, we see realism triumphing again.
While the health care bill leaves a lot to be desired, it is not a bad bill. Although it still leaves out millions, this reform will extend coverage to more than 30,000,000 Americans who don't have it now. This is no small matter, for that number represents nearly 10% of the nation’s population.
The health care reform bill is one example of democratic socialism at work. It is democratic in that it will be enacted by Congress, the democratically elected leaders of the nation. It is socialistic in that the government guarantees health care for at least most of the citizens of the nation.
The health care reform bill is socialistic in the same way that Social Security and Medicare are socialistic. There are problems, mostly financial, with both of those programs. But would any except the wealthiest among us want to do away with Social Security and Medicare? (I challenge those of you who might be opposed to the health care bill because it is socialistic to voluntarily forfeit your Medicare coverage.)
I would like to have had an “ideal” health care reform bill. But I am glad that realism triumphed over idealism, for in this case something is far better than nothing.