It has taken nearly a year and cost President Obama a lot of his popularity, thanks to the spineless behaviour of many House Democrats, but the final barrier has been passed to the US getting universal health-care.
Obama’s health reform bill passed the House yesterday by a narrow margin. It now needs to win a vote in the Senate, which is expected to be much more convincing, and then it goes for Obama’s signature.
Once the law comes into force, insurers will no longer be able to exclude children from coverage because of pre-existing conditions or put limits on pay-outs. The policy will expand until in 2014 it will become compulsory to have health insurance, which will be heavily subsidised for the poor.
It’s universal health-care. Not as we or citizens of other developed countries would recognise it, but a huge advance for a country where 50 million have no health-care coverage and many millions more are under-insured.
Until now, many millions of Americans have been cut out of the health system while private insurers have spent billions denying them coverage. This is why the country’s health statistics are so appalling. Hopefully, that will now start to change and Americans will get a health system that is actually focused on delivering health-care to all, rather than avoiding insurance pay-outs.
It’s stunning to realise how backward the US is on something so basic as access to health-care. Finally, the US is catching up with the 20th century.
So congratulations to Obama. Even if this was his one great achievement it would be worthwhile. I expect now that the issue is settled the fire will go out of the Right’s hysteria and Obama’s reputation will go from strength to strength.