Argument: 2009 US health care reform is historic improvement

Issue Report: US health care reform


Tom Bevan. “President Obama’s Remarks on Senate HC Vote.” Time. December 24, 2009: “these are not small reforms; these are big reforms. If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s.”

Jonathan Chait. “Why the health care bill is the greatest social achievement of our time.” The New Republic. December 24th, 2009: “What has emerged from that machinery is not merely ‘better than nothing’ or ‘a good start.’ It is the most significant American legislative triumph in at least four decades. Why can so few people see that?

As the debate has dragged on, attention has increasingly focused on health reform in a vacuum, rather than in comparison with the status quo. And it is true, as the bill’s defenders have been forced to admit, that health care reform will not leave the United States with an especially great system. The salient fact, though, is that the United States currently has, among advanced countries, a uniquely horrible system—twice as costly as the OECD average while producing mediocre results and denying care to millions.

The massive waste of the system has made reform elusive. Every dollar of waste, reformers have long noted ruefully, is what somebody calls “income.” The interests that benefit from that waste are well-organized, while the people who pay for that waste, as well as the uninsured, are not.

The critics correctly note that reform will leave many Americans uninsured and much waste untouched. By definition, any reform that does not immediately slash the total cost of health care while insuring the entire population, all without impacting the quality of care is producing a wasteful system. After all, we know from the example of other countries that such a system could exist. And yet this reform goes remarkably far in remaking American health care, both in its efficiency and its humanity.”

“Health reform right now beats none at all.” Chicago Sun Times. December 20, 2009: “The Senate health-care bill, for which Majority Leader Harry Reid on Saturday finally found the crucial 60th vote necessary for passage, would expand insurance to 30 million more Americans.

No longer could insurance companies deny a person coverage because of a current or past medical problem — a pre-existing condition. No longer could insurance companies drop a person who gets sick.

No longer would quality health care be unaffordable for millions of lower-and middle-income Americans. The Senate bill includes financial aid to those who can’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small businesses that do provide insurance.

These are dramatic and historic advances. These are the building blocks of a more civilized and caring society. And once these reforms are enacted, we predict it will become impossible — as it has become with Social Security — to roll them back.”

Robert Samuelson. “A parody of leadership.” Real Clear Politics. December 21, 2009: “Unless some legislator pulls off a last-minute double-cross, health care reform will pass the Senate this week. Count me among those who consider this an awesome achievement. It’s a seriously flawed bill, we’ll spend years if not decades fixing it, but it’s nonetheless a huge step forward.”