Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Join Mailing List

Health Last Updated: Dec 29th, 2009 - 00:29:58

With health care, don�t let the perfect be the enemy
By Mary Shaw
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 29, 2009, 00:13

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

Early in the morning on December 24, the U.S. Senate passed its version of a health care reform bill. The next step is conference committee, where the Senate and House versions -- quite different each another -- will be reconciled and merged.

The Senate version contains a lot of compromises -- so many that some progressives feel the Senate should have let the bill die and then started again from scratch next year. But a new Senate bill would require the same 60 votes to break a filibuster, and those 60 votes would surely require similar compromises, since the cast of characters would be the same. To wait until after the 2010 elections would be to continue losing people every day who die from lack of health insurance. That would not be acceptable.

While the Senate bill is surely far from perfect (I would have liked a public option, and I don�t like the health insurance mandate), it will at least fix a few of the major issues facing sick Americans today: As I understand it, the Senate bill would force insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions, and it would prevent them from dropping your coverage when you get sick and start costing them money. It would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by 31 million by 2019. In addition, the bill is fiscally responsible, and would allegedly reduce the deficit over time. Those are good steps in the right direction. And, as Bill Clinton said recently, �America can�t afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.�

In a recent New York Times column, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman endorsed the bill despite its imperfections, looking instead to its long-term promise. He pointed out that �social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by. Thus, Social Security originally had huge gaps in coverage -- and a majority of African-Americans, in particular, fell through those gaps. But it was improved over time, and it�s now the bedrock of retirement stability for the vast majority of Americans.�

Another person I admire, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, has spoken out in favor of the Senate bill. Franken is a progressive, and I think he recognizes that passing this thing is better than doing nothing out of disappointment for not getting everything.

Even self-described democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive hero if there ever was one, voted for this Senate bill, because he believes that it�s better than nothing and will help a lot of people overall.

Perhaps most importantly, Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that her late husband would have wanted this bill to pass. And you can�t accuse Ted Kennedy of not being a progressive.

So maybe the more radical progressives who condemn the Senate bill should take a step back and look at the big picture. A step in the right direction is better than no step at all. And, as Krugman noted, it would provide a foundation on which to build additional public health benefits in the future. This solid (or at least semi-solid) foundation is certainly better than trying to build something entirely different on a wobbly foundation that doesn�t have the support it needs in both houses of Congress.

Do it for the 45,000 people who die in the U.S. each year due to lack of health insurance.

And do it for Ted Kennedy. May he rest in peace.

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author�s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail:

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
With health care, don�t let the perfect be the enemy
WHO �Swine Flu Pope� under investigation for gross conflict of interest
A real revolution in the making in the U.S. health care industry
Open letter to the House Progressive Caucus (except Kucinich and Massa)
Why I voted no on H.R. 3962
No to single-payer, yes to prayer?
Is your doctor's continuing ed funded by pharma?
What physicians know
Health care: Ignoring the huge red elephant in the room
United Health Care profits soar 155 percent on Medicare plans
In praise of Senator Max Baucus
Health care is an inalienable right
Obama�s and Congress� health care deceit
Health care: You can�t win the Super Bowl with a third-string quarterback
Even Camelot needed health care
Who�s got a ticket to live?
The irony of the �socialist� scare
Is the past prologue for A/H1N1?
Will people give cholesterol drug Vytorin a second chance?
Open letter to President Obama: Remember the lessons of the 1938 Munich Conference