Health-care reform may be Priority No. 1 in Congress and at the White House, but for the 1,825 religious conservatives who gathered in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit in September, the subject was barely on their radar screen.
President Obama’s plan to give all Americans the option of a government-run health insurance plan got a frigid reception in June from the American Medical Association, the nation’s leading lobbying group for physicians. Offering a public plan would “restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers,” the AMA warned in a statement before Obama appeared before the group.
On May 13, I lingered in Upper Senate Park, just north of the U.S. Capitol, hearing New Orleans jazz coming from down Constitution Avenue. Then I saw the brass band leading a lively procession of hundreds of nurses, other medical professionals and patient advocates.
Longtime advocates of single-payer insurance like me are thrilled, anxious and deflated simultaneously by the state of the debate on health-care reform. The debate that we wanted has finally come, and it is coming with a legislative rush, but the plan that we wanted is being excluded from consideration. Should we hold out for the real thing, or get behind the best politically possible thing?
I am for doing both: Standing up for single-payer without holding out for it exclusively; supporting a public option without denying its limitations; and hoping that a good public plan will lead eventually to real national health insurance.
Shortly before Christmas, while defending his plan to give federal aid to the collapsing U.S. automakers, President Bush remarked, “I have abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”