It’s time right now to fix health care

Kansas City Star

Congress last tried and failed to pass health care reform in 1994. Bill Clinton was president. “Forrest Gump” was named best motion picture. Social networking was something you did at the corner bar.

Sixteen years later, and health care cost growth has vastly outpaced inflation. More people go without insurance. Thousands have died for lack of it. Experts across the political spectrum agree that our system costs too much, delivers too little.

Now Congress has another chance. If Democrats find the courage to look beyond mercurial polling numbers and false accusations, they will do the nation and future generations a huge service.

Now is the time to enact historic legislation that will bring financial and medical security to millions of families, reduce the federal deficit, and pave the way for a fairer and better-performing health care system.

Getting a reform bill to this point has exposed the worst of our legislative process. We’ve witnessed unseemly deals, inscrutable maneuverings and far too much misinformation.

Contrary to what opponents have said, the Democratic bills before the House and Senate don’t represent a government takeover of the market-based health care system.

The planks of the reform plan in reality are modest reforms that actually originated as Republican ideas in saner political times.

But Republicans never had any intention of cooperating this time around. The hard work of reform has fallen to Democrats. Now it’s time to finish the task.

Senators and House members must move beyond their personal causes and parochial interests. They were elected to do what’s right for the country, not heed the polls of the moment.

As health care reform moves toward its end game, House Democrats are contemplating yet another procedural maneuver that would enable members to vote on a package of fixes to the Senate bill without actually voting for the bill itself.

The procedure, known as “deem and pass,” is a tactic that’s been frequently used by both parties. But Democrats should not employ it to pass health care.

Legislation this big deserves an up-or-down vote. Indeed, members of Congress should be proud to vote “aye.”

History suggests that a failure to pass health reform now will make the issue politically radioactive for years, perhaps decades.

Think of where we’ll be in another 16 years. There’s no way to predict who will lead the nation or where technology will take us. But we know that unless something changes our health care system will continue to drag down our economy and cost people their savings and even their lives.

The above editorial was originally published March 17 by the Kansas City Star. Content was made available by MCTCampus.