Raising Women’s Voices

The Health Care Mandate in a Transformative Presidency

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on November 6, 2008

Richard Kirsch

Posted November 5, 2008 | 04:47 PM (EST)

The Health Care Mandate in a Transformative Presidency

Make no mistake about it, yesterday’s election was a mandate to enact legislation that will provide a government guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all. But to realize a promise of such historic magnitude, it will take our nation believing monumental change is possible. President-elect Obama announced last night his win was just the beginning saying, “This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.”

When the Obama campaign decided to spend 86% of its October advertising on health care, it both recognized that health care was the most important issue to break through with swing voters on the economy and raised the expectation that health care would be at the top of the Obama agenda. Obama himself made it clear he sees health care as an essential plank for restoring the economy when he gave his major health care address in Newport News, Virginia on October 4, 2008. He rhetorically asked whether the nation could afford health care given the economic crisis and answered, “In other words, the question isn’t how we can afford to focus on health care – but how we can afford not to. Because in order to fix our economic crisis, and rebuild our middle class, we need to fix our health care system too. So it’s clear that the time has come – right now – to solve this problem: to cut health care costs for families and businesses, and provide affordable, accessible health insurance for every American.”

On October 6th, Obama reinforced his commitment to fixing health care by signing on to the Health Care for America Now campaign. The HCAN statement, which has now been signed by more than 145 Members of Congress, commits to making health care a first order of business in 2009 and includes ten specific principles for reform, each of which is included in Obama’s own health care plan. The decision by Senator Obama to sign on to the HCAN campaign less than a month before Election Day sent a message that HCAN represents the type of health care reform we need and that Congress should be eager to join HCAN as well. As a national grassroots coalition representing millions of individuals and more than 450 organizations, HCAN looks forward to working with the President-elect to enact our common vision of change.

President-elect Obama also understands that he’ll need an army to take on the insurance and drug lobbies and the entrenched members of Congress who will resist meaningful reform: “And we are tired of watching as year after year, candidates offer up detailed health care plans with great fanfare and promise, only to see them crushed under the weight of Washington politics and drug and insurance lobbying once the campaign is over.” (Newport News, 10/4/08)

It’s natural to expect Congress to approach reform with skepticism and hesitation. After years of even the tiniest movement forward taking exhaustive effort, Congress will have trouble imaging a new era and a new air of possibility. Interest groups won’t stop inundating Members with special pleas and offering excuses for inaction. Congressional instinct will be to lean towards the easy out.

Our job is to continue to build our movement and also tap into the army of Obama supporters who truly believe now is the time we can make our nation even better. Together we can fight back and defeat the insurance lobbyists and drug companies who will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into influencing Congress that doing nothing – or next-to-nothing – is the safe way to go.

Reforming our health care system has the potential to be the centerpiece of a major transformation in American society. We are the same nation that embraced the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the far-reaching changes that took place in the 1960’s. Naysayers arguing Americans aren’t ready for or capable of making significant strides ignore the marvelous bursts of progressive change that have reshaped our nation for decades. We are past the stage of inaction and fear. It’s time to strive again.

As Robert Kuttner writes in the opening paragraph of his new book, Obama’s Challenge: American’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Tranformational Presidency, “Barack Obama could be the first chief executive since Lyndon Johnson with the potential to be a transformative progressive president. By that I mean a president who profoundly alters American politics and the role of government in American life – one who uses his office to appeal to our best selves to change our economy, society and democracy for the better. That achievement requires a rendezvous of a critical moment with rare skills of leadership.”….

For the full story, please visit:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-kirsch/the-health-care-mandate-i_b_141576.html

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