The special election of Massachusetts Republican State Senator Scott Brown appears to doom the latest Congressional effort to broaden health services in America. If history is any guide it may be a decade before anyone tries again to rationalize America's health delivery service, offering effective care to all citizens and preventing the unfortunate from becoming bankrupted by bad luck. It's possible that Obama, Pelosi, Reid et al may press on with Congressional ping-pong aimed at reconciling the House and Senate versions with a faint hope of persuading Maine Senator Olympia Snowe to break party ranks and move the bill to the president's desk. It's more likely they may abandon all hope on health care at this point. Why bother with a bruising internecine fight over abortion and the booted public option when the outcome is so uncertain?
I do find myself wishing that Democrats could force the issue to a true Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington-style filibuster instead of the filibuster fakery that is currently gridlocking Congress. It would be an inspiration to watch a lone Republican stalwart go up against the special interests among the poor, marginalized, uninsured U.S. working and middle classes in heroic oratory defending America's profit-glutted Big-Pharma and bonus-backslappers in for-profit health care's upper management. That's something no American school child would ever forget, assuming CSPAN could cover it.
U.S. Catholic leadership seem to have accepted the depressing prognosis on health care reform and are positioning themselves for whatever comes next. "The important thing to remember," said the Catholic Health Association's Sister Carol Keehan, "is that even if they throw the bills away and abandon the effort to achieve health reform, that still leaves a lot of people hurting." In other words just because the debate is over, well, the debate's not over with nearly 50 million without health insurance and those of us STILL facing pre-existing condition exceptions, ruinous lifetime care limits and escalating overall costs and co-pays that are draining family budgets.
Also ready to move on are the U.S. Bishops, who had been apparently still ready to go to the mattresses over ethical deficiencies they perceived in the compromise Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment to the Senate proposal (I confess after multiple reads of Stupak and Nelson and apoplectic "progressive" attacks on same, I still don't understand how any of it would have practically worked), and now appear ready to join a colossal health-care do-over. "The bishops are not abandoning the health reform effort," said Kathy Saile of the USCCB. "But it clearly needs to be done in a different way [than the current bills] and we are very much interested in being a part of that conversation."
The question is do Americans have the mental toughness to go through that all over again or are we reaching a civic battle-fatigue on health care that will allow the economic timebomb of the health care status quo to keep ticking?
Given the Soviet-style party discipline evinced by the Republican Party on health care reform, we may have to go to a Bill Murray-ish Plan B. "Baby steps" anyone?