December 24, 2009
What Victory Looks Like

“Winning Ugly, But Winning,” is the headline on Ezra Klein’s assessment of the dawn victory today on health care:

…It has cleared five committees. It has come through the House of Representatives. It has been merged into a single bill in the Senate. It has passed through the Senate. No previous health-care reform bill has come anywhere near this far. But there are more milestones left to achieve: The House and Senate need to agree on a bill. That bill has to pass both chambers again. And then the president has to sign the legislation.

Passing legislation, it turns out, is a long and ugly process. God, is it ugly. The compromises, both with powerful special interests and decisive senators. The trimming of ambitions and the budget gimmicks and the worship of Congressional Budget Office scores. By the end, you're passing a compromise of a deal of a negotiation of a concession.

Bad a system as it might be, it's the only one we've got, at least for now. This is what victory looks like. The slow, grinding, ineluctable advance of legislation that looks quite a bit like what you began with, albeit not identical. It's not pretty, and it doesn't necessarily feel like winning is supposed to feel. But this bill will do most of the things supporters hoped it would do: cover about 95 percent of all legal residents, regulate insurers, set up competitive exchanges, pretty much end risk selection, institute a universal structure that we can improve and enhance as the years go on, and vastly reduce both medical and financial risk for families.

It's been a long time since the legislative system did anything this big, and people have forgotten how awful the victories are. But these are the victories, and if they feel bad to many, they will do good for more. As that comes clearer and clearer, this bill will come to feel more and more like the historic advance it actually is…


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at December 24, 2009 10:26 AM
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Even the Constitution was a compromise and had many problems. Many the Bill of rights and many amendments were added to it years later. The bill of rights took several years to come into being. So it may not be perfect, those who can see far enough into the future, as Will Rogers so famously said about the fellow with the telescope, can see that is can be a major step forward if WE work to improve it in the years ahead.

And if we don't get stupid again and elect Republicans who will emasculate it and make it not serve the American people (unless the Republican Party changes dramatically, as David Brooks had advocated)we will eventually have something that will give us a health care system that works and is at least as low cost of the great European and Candadian systems.

And those steps will take perhaps a decade or more.

Posted by: Buck on December 24, 2009 10:45 AM

Substance aside, what's been most disappointing in this process has been form. There should be more than a couple of guys in this government saying the sorts of things Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders are saying. And one of them should be that guy who was so happy to take our money back in 2008.

Instead, all the lines in the sand were drawn by the corporate shills. I get that they're part of the process. But it would have been more reassuring if our side had anyone to match their determination.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on December 24, 2009 12:58 PM

Here's a quick breakdown of major health insurance company stock performance from Oct. 27 to Friday's market close:

* Coventry Health Care, Inc. is up 31.6 percent;

* CIGNA Corp. is up 29.1 percent;

* Aetna Inc. is up 27.1 percent;

* WellPoint, Inc. is up 26.6 percent;

* UnitedHealth Group Inc. is up 20.5 percent;

* And Humana Inc. is up 13.6 percent.

Posted by: on December 25, 2009 12:09 AM

Don't quit holding your breath 'til it gets through conference committee.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on December 26, 2009 12:08 AM
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