The final vote has not been taken as we write, but it appears the historic health-care reform bill will be approved by the Senate. This will be the biggest Christmas present for the American people since Medicare 40 years ago. Thirty years before Medicare, Social Security was enacted. Those two programs have dramatically improved the lives of ordinary Americans, providing some protection from illness and poverty, allowing them a shred of dignity in their later years.
The new health-care bill will not have as great an impact, but its benefits will be felt. Millions of people now unable to get health insurance will be empowered to do so. Some of the worst abuses of private insurance companies will be curbed, such as denying coverage for “pre-existing conditions,” code for “If you need health insurance, you can't have health insurance.” It's an imperfect bill — there's no public option — but the imperfect is the enemy of the rotten, which is the kind of health-care system we have now.
Besides that, the country was much in need of a change in direction, a reacceptance of the idea that we're all our brothers' and sisters' keepers, and that we have a duty through the government we elect to help those who can't make it without help. We've catered too long to the worst elements of our society; it was time to repudiate the grifters and loonies.
It's particularly gratifying that both Arkansas senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, supported reform in the end, after months of threats and inducements to do otherwise. Earlier, Arkansas was not so well defended in the House, where two of our four representatives, John Boozman and Mike Ross, collapsed under the weight of responsibility. Vic Snyder and Marion Berry came through. Seldom if ever have two members of the Arkansas delegation been so prominently and crucially involved in negotiations over earth-shaking legislation as were Lincoln and Ross on the health-care bill. Lincoln passed this test of political leadership. Ross did not. Both are up for re-election.
Social Security, Medicare, wage and hour laws, the new health-care bill — we can't keep from remarking, much as we'd like to in this season of Christian forbearance, that the Republican Party has stoutly resisted every one. Do they hate their fellow Americans? Are they dumb, the nimrods that Representative Berry has accused them of being, or only malicious? Is there therapy that would help? One thing that would help is for Republicans holding elective office to stand up to pretenders like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Until then, the party will remain marginalized, and basically no-account.