Thursday, March 25, 2010

You’ve got to have Guts

By Ellen Bruce, President Emerita, OWL

On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law a bill which will extend coverage to 31 million uninsured people by 2014. It is far from perfect but there is much to like in this bill – the elimination of gender rating and pre-existing condition exclusions, the expansion of Medicaid to more low-income people, the eventual elimination of the prescription drug coverage “doughnut hole”, and some much needed cost-savings.

I find it particularly satisfying to note that the two leaders with the guts to push for the vote in the House were Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama. These two people were apparently driven more by the desire to provide health care coverage to more Americans than by the fear of failure.

After a year of dilly-dallying, our elected officials in Washington, DC finally got serious. I have no doubt that, had the bill not passed or at least been brought up for a vote, we would be waiting another twenty years before the topic of universal coverage would be brought up again.

The opponents of the bill are vowing to repeal it. The fight isn’t over. The public campaign to explain the bill to the voters has to continue. The opponents would have us believe we would be better off with the status quo, but there is no status quo. Costs are rising and the numbers of uninsured are rising. The suffering of people who lack health care coverage when they are sick and the burden of rising costs on businesses and individuals can’t be ignored.

Doing nothing would be putting our heads in the sand. President Obama and Speaker Pelosi showed us that they have the guts to shape an uncertain future. Now it is our turn to show that we have the guts to make it work.