Friday, March 20, 2009

Health Care Still on the Agenda

To be honest, I was relieved to see this column from Tom Daschle in the Washington Post today. A lot of people seem to be really worried that without Daschle in the seat at HHS or in the position at the White House, health care reform just won't happen. The impression I got, after seeing him withdraw from the nomination process, was that Daschle was The Guy and now we're screwed. It was a logic I didn't quite follow. If that were the case, and Daschle were the only person availible to make health care reform happen, then that would have said a lot about the lack of commitment to such an issue.

But that's not what the situation is (or at least I hope not). Daschle himself says:
The pundits were wrong because of the president's unwavering commitment to this issue. "Health-care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year," he said last month.

They were wrong because of the broad support for health reform in Congress. "Republicans are coming to the understanding that their opposition to universal coverage is misplaced," Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) recently admitted. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has promised: "We will not fail."

The pundits were wrong because reformers have some new and unlikely allies. "This is a great start," former Republican congressman Billy Tauzin, now president of the leading pharmaceutical lobbying group, said at the recent White House Forum on Health Reform. "You have our commitment to play, to contribute and to help pass health-care reform this year," said Karen Ignagni, chief executive of the major insurance industry lobby.

But the biggest error those pundits made was in thinking that the debate over health-care reform would be decided by who occupies certain positions in Washington. It won't. It will be decided by the American people. And at the Forum on Health Reform, those voices were finally heard.

In other words, there are a lot of people that are working on this issue. And it's getting to the point where all of the arguments that businesses and the insurance lobby used in the 1990s to stall health care reform just aren't relevant or strong anymore. People want this. And it won't just be Daschle that makes it happen.

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