Virginia Governor McDonnell, who proclaimed in his rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address that we have “the best medical system in the world” has my qualified agreement on one point. My personal medical system is the best in the world. As a member of Kaiser Permanente, I consider my physicians among the best in the world and my care right up there. I can e-mail any of my physicians with any question; most of them reply in 24 hours or less. I can schedule appointments with specialists with ease; usually I see anyone I want within a few weeks. Medicare helps me pay for all this.
Problem is, not everyone in America enjoys such care at such cost. Millions of my fellow Americans – who might not agree with Governor McDonnell – would be happy for any kind of medical care at any remotely affordable cost. Millions of Americans are suffering and dying for lack of care. Maybe, to correct this, I’ll have to settle for just moderately excellent care rather than the best. So be it. Maybe my costs would go up. So be it. It is morally wrong for people in this country to be without health care.
(In a recent comment on this page written very late at night I attributed Governor McDonnell’s interesting phrase to former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Even before my astute True/Slant editors had caught the gaffe an astute reader had brought my attention to it. After I thanked him, Astute Reader replied, “Virginia might be better off if you did give it back to Tim Kaine.” We’ll see.)
But back to health care. Although it has faded slightly into the background, word is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are still hoping to salvage the sprawling bill. It could be done, if the Senate bill’s sprawl. As Noam Levey reported in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times,
(I)n the coming weeks, Pelosi and Reid hope to rally House Democrats behind the healthcare bill passed by the Senate while simultaneously trying persuade Senate Democrats to approve a series of changes to the legislation using budget procedures that bar filibusters.
At the same time, leading consumer groups, doctors and labor unions that have backed the healthcare legislative effort for more than a year are stepping up attempts to stiffen lawmakers’ resolve.
These included scaling back the Cadillac tax, boosting aid to help low- and moderate-income Americans buy insurance, closing the “doughnut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug plan, and giving all states the assistance that Nebraska secured to expand Medicaid.
But many House Democrats do not want to vote on the Senate bill until the Senate passes the fixes they want. And it is unclear whether the Senate could approve a package of changes to its bill before the House approves the underlying legislation, according to senior Democratic aides. Democratic leaders hope to agree on a procedural path forward by the end of this week.
Despite the hurdles, there is a growing consensus that a modified Senate bill may offer the best hope for enacting a healthcare overhaul.
“The more they think about it, the more they can appreciate that it may be a viable . . . vehicle for getting healthcare reform done,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), president of the Democratic freshman class in the House.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Senate health committee, noted that even before the Massachusetts election, senior Democrats had substantially agreed on a series of compromises that addressed differences between the House and Senate healthcare bills.
This space still hopes that “the best medical system in the world” can be made available to a few of the millions in America who still so desperately need it.