Column: Nasty health care debate to fade - for now, anywayFARGO, N.D. — Love it or hate it, health care reform is the law of the land. Approval by Congress last week and President Barack Obama’s signature took the edge off a polarizing debate for now and likely into the future.
By: Jack Zaleski, The Forum, Worthington Daily Globe
FARGO, N.D. — Love it or hate it, health care reform is the law of the land. Approval by Congress last week and President Barack Obama’s signature took the edge off a polarizing debate for now and likely into the future.
Debate over the legislation was appropriated early by the extremes. As the bill moved through Congress, any hope of sensible discussion was shouted down. Assumptions based on slanted polling data and partisan agendas drove the debate. On one side were claims that “Americans hate this bill.” On the other side were chants of “Americans love what’s in the bill.” The truth lies somewhere in between. A new USA Today poll showed support for the legislation shot up to nearly 50 percent after the bill cleared Congress.
Elements of the law have broad bipartisan support. (And it is the law now, not the bill, as Republicans continue to say.) But the totality of the legislation sends opponents into fits because they believe it will be a jobs killer and add to the federal deficit. The Democratic left is fried off because the public option was jettisoned. (Although Sen. Kent Conrad’s, D-N.D., health cooperative funding is in the law.)
As the vitriol of the debate subsides, most American families will smile about provisions of the law starting in 90 days to six months. Among them:
l A $250 rebate to Medicare drug beneficiaries — a way to close the so-called “doughnut hole.”
l High-risk pools for people with no insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
l Bar insurers from denying coverage when people get sick (2014).
l Bar insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
l Bar insurers from imposing lifetime caps on coverage.
l Require insurers to allow children to stay on parents’ policies to age 26.
Opponents contend the law is a budget-buster or outrageous intrusion of government into the private health sector. Some go so far as to characterize the legislation as a government takeover of the health care sector. They apparently are unaware of government’s role in Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and the Indian Health Service. And if you want pure “socialism” in U.S. health care, look no further than the VA.
Many of the most objectionable elements don’t take effect for several years, so the sky-is-falling predictions are speculation, often colored by politics and ideology. And since those provisions come in the out years, there is no guarantee they will survive review by a future Congress or president.
Despite the hyperbole by opponents who vow to “continue the fight,” the headlinegenerating debate over the byzantine congressional process is old news. Americans’ attention spans are notoriously short.
To be sure, politicians and others will try to use the law as a club against their opponents in the run-up to November elections. But as other issues take center stage, specifically jobs creation and a debate over immigration, health care will be seen by most Americans as a settled issue — for now.
Jack Zaleski is editorial page editor at The Forum, which like the Daily Globe is owned by Forum Communications Co. His e-mail is email@example.com.