In the Arena

Right-Wing Nervous Breakdown

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This is becoming a rather difficult week for the wingnuts. Glenn Greenwald details the insanity prevailing among the neocons on the question of Israeli settlements. But the froth-at-the-mouth-rabidity seems to be increasing across the board…and the reason for this is the probable passage of the health care reform legislation on Sunday in the House of Representatives.

We’ve been so caught up in the day-to-day shenanigans, on both sides, that the truly historic nature of the moment has been missed. A great American injustice is about to be addressed. More than 32 million people, who lack health insurance now and live in constant fear of chronic disease will be helped–not immediately, but gradually, as the provisions of the bill kick in. Countless millions of others will never have to worry about losing their insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition or because chronic illness has caused them to exceed their lifetime “cap.” A system of exchanges will allow individuals and small business seeking health insurance to enter the market with the same power as major corporations. This is a big deal.

And a big problem for Republicans who, yet again, have chosen not to participate in the extension of a basic human right to all Americans–the right to health care–a right that is common throughout the rest of the civilized world. There is talk of the GOP starting a “Repeal Health Care” campaign as soon as the bill is passed, but that’s not a likely scenario. Indeed, Democrats are salivating over the notion of such a campaign. They’ll be able to run for Congress next fall, saying: “We made sure no one can ever take away your health insurance…and the Republicans want to repeal that right.”

To be sure, this bill is not perfect…and, in some ways, quite awful. But it is the first step in what will undoubtedly be a continuing process to rationalize the American health care system. Medical malparactice reform will have to be addressed sooner or later. The bill unnecessarily expands Medicaid, as Karen has reported extensively, a program that really should be abolished–Medicaid recipients should receive their health care through the exchanges (as should senior citizens for that matter, but that may come in time, too). Indeed, over time, I’d hope that we can move to a system that relieves employers of the financial burden of providing health insurance…and also to a system that pays doctors salaries, rather than a fee for every service they perform.

But, in political terms–and despite the smokescreen wafted by the Republican opposition–passage of this bill will be a triumph for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. If it passes. And that looming triumph is at the heart of what’s driving Republicans crazy this week.