Health Care Can Help Win the Midterms

The new Washington Post-ABCNews poll shows that President Obama’s approval ratings are returning to the earth’s atmosphere. Put differently, the honeymoon is almost over. And, because the recession Obama inherited is still not over even though the honeymoon is, views on the President’s performance are returning to more typical partisan ratings. Democrats are still wild about the guy and Republicans are no longer giving him the benefit of the doubt. Those all-important Independent voters are returning to type: some lean left and others right.

This development should not worry the President overmuch but many members in Congress are understandably worried. They face re-election in 2010, not 2012, and the prospect of running with the recession still on is daunting. But, instead of running away from the President on issues like health care, they need to rally round. A political success on an important issue like health care, upon which all previous administrations have seen their reforms shipwrecked, is precisely the kind of historic change that voters have come to believe Congress is incapable of achieving. It is also the kind of historic change voters embraced last year.


Health Care reform will also take some time to implement. To listen to the Republican obstructionists, you would think that the sky will fall the second the President signs reform legislation. Bureaucrats will invade your home and tell you which doctor you can see, what procedures you can have, and take your money too. Of course, none of that will happen. So, if the Congress passes a bill this year, and the sky does not fall, Democrats are well-placed to charge their opponents with alarmism.

The taxes for health care reform will start immediately, but so long as Obama does not go back on his pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year, and gets a bit more populist about income distribution, he can ride out that storm too. Some people, including some readers, seem to think that making more than $250,000 does not make you rich. They should try living on a writer’s salary. And, with a writer’s health care premiums. It is strange to me that the administration has not highlighted the plight of the self-employed in obtaining health care. Millions of Americans are self-employed and the argument will off-set the GOP talking points about small businesses being hurt by the health care reforms.

Most importantly, the President must find his moral voice on the issue. He can borrow easily and heavily from the calls to social justice – and the explicit approval given to wealth distribution on behalf of social justice – found in Pope Benedict’s new encyclical. After all, the Pope gave him a copy of it to read. Let the President quote it! The need for health care reform is not just to provide health coverage to those who currently lack it, although that is an instance of justice. It is to bind the nation together, to say that we must be our brother’s keeper if we are to thrive as a nation, that we as a nation can no longer walk past the uninsured as if they were the man who fell in among robbers on the road to Jericho and was helped only by the Samaritan. After 30 years of laissez-faire economics, it is time to bring humane and moral guidance to the economy.

Health care reform, provided it does not overturn to Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funds being used for abortion, is exactly the kind of policy Pope Benedict called for in his encyclical. If the President and the Democrats in Congress want to bolster their ratings with moderate swing voters, the moral case for health care reform is the most compelling. And, if they can achieve what previous Congresses and Presidents could not, they will be running with history at their backs in 2010, not with sagging poll numbers.  

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8 years 8 months ago
Mr. Winters & America Magazine,
I'm very confused by posts like this?  Is American magazine to become the voice for Catholic Liberal Democrats?  Is Mr. Winters's job to speak for Catholic Democrats? If so, can we get a Catholic Republican to counter?  In short, what is the point of this blog?
Oh, and Mr. Winters, some of those "Republican obstructionists" you talk about have some pretty good ideas worth listening to.
8 years 8 months ago
I know you think that changes in health services will not change right away and that Republicans are being dramatic.  And in some ways they are.  But I know several doctor groups who provide care in large cities are watching the bill very closely and plan on cutting staff as soon as it passes to prepare for a loss in wages even though they won't see that for a little while.  This will have an imediate impact.  I know the health care industry is scared shitless right now.  And no matter how much people vilify their doctors, we still need them to feel secure and still want to work in the industry.  It's too bad they don't have more of a say in the bill.  Looks like it's mostly insurance, pharm and hospitals that get the say.
8 years 8 months ago
   Mr. Winters writes that people fear that with health care reform legislation "bureaucrats will invade your home and tell you which doctor you can see, what procedures you can have, and take your money too".  This, however, is not the unfounded fear that one hoping for reform would wish it to be.  That is because insurance companies do precisely that, and up to this point there was still some hope that the government would be able to step in to protect the insured from too much of it. 
   For this reform to pass, it must be made clear that the days of having one's health care choices dictated by those who provide insurance will be over with health care reform.  It must be made clear that there will be other approaches to making sure that medical providers do their jobs honestly and competently. 
   The concept of health care, too, must change to put the emphasis on health which includes promoting mental and physical health in the form of stress reduction, rest, good nutrition, and time to heal in addition to, or sometimes in place of, prescriptions and procedures.
    As to Mr. Winters' point regarding the self-employed, it should be noted that they currently bear the entire 2.9% the government takes out of any salary to support Medicare since they have no employer with whom to split this obligation.
8 years 8 months ago
MSW said "provided it does not overturn to Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funds being used for abortion"
Why are you stating this caveat so narrowly?  What if healthcare reform doesn't pay for abortions with federal funding but forces states or private payers to pay for coverage for abortions for all Americans?  Is that an OK result for you?  Would it make the bill acceptable, because it's a mandate not a funded mandate?  And what if it keeps Hyde intact technically, by providing that all other federal funds can't pay for abortion but healthcare federal funds can?  Would that be an acceptable solution, even though it's just a shell game? 
The 20 Democrats in the House wrote a letter to leadership opposing abortion in healthcare and they did not state the objection so narrowly-they oppose any mandate as well as any funding.  Do you stand with them and their letter, or do you stand seperate?  I think you would do your readers a service to state your position.


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