Obama delivers change

Written By: - Date published: 10:30 am, March 23rd, 2010 - 36 comments
Categories: health, us politics - Tags: ,

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.

36 comments on “Obama delivers change”

  1. gingercrush 1

    Huge victory for Obama. But the real victory is for Nancy Pelosi.While the right and the left have attacked her leadership of the house. The passing of this bill largely comes down to her. Perhaps it’ll hurt them at the mid-term elections. But while the opposition to this was real. To actually pass the thing secures Obama’s Presidency. And I have no doubt that in time that opposition will subside. Enough for the Democrats to not lose as many seats as is currently expected.

  2. Bill 2

    Insurance Industry Reform. Not Health Care Reform.

    Q. How many people get to die from lack of medical care before 2014?

    A. “45,000 Americans (..) die each year because they cannot afford coverage”
    “The bill will not expand coverage to 30 million uninsured, especially since government subsidies will not take effect until 2014”

    Q. What happens to illegal immigrants or their kids?

    A. No medical cover.

    Q. How the fuck are the poor to afford even the cheapest cover?

    A. “Families who cannot pay the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments, estimated to be between 15 and 18 percent of most family incomes, will have to default, increasing the number of uninsured.”

    Q. How much extra profit is the Insurance Industry looking to make out of all this?

    A. “Insurance companies can unilaterally raise prices without ceilings or caps and monopolize local markets to shut out competitors.”

    Quotes from this piece… The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed by Chris Hedges

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      The US only has republicans to blame for the watering down of the bill.

      Quote from Slashdot:
      “It was the “right to life” people that threatened to block life-saving medical care for millions.”

      Even if this bill doesn’t go far enough, it sets the ground for a better bill in a few years time when it can be widely seen that the sky hasn’t fallen and that people are actually healthier under the new system.

      captcha: mistakes

      • Lew 2.1.1

        This is exactly right. Now the bill is passed (I believe it’s already passed the Senate); so now any further reform is a matter of amendment, rather than building the whole damned pyramid again. That’s a much more straightforward task, and this is Obama’s great achievement.


        • Lanthanide

          The bill first went through the house, then through the senate back when they had 60 votes. The senate changed the bill substantially (due to republican pressure), so it had to go back through the house again, which is what the latest voting was about. Now the bill has to go back through the senate, because the house added some changes this last time as well.

          They are going to use a technical process of “budget reconciliation” that allows them to get through with 51 votes to avoid filibustering, instead of the usual 60 required, as they currently only have 59 democrat senators. At this stage it appears they are expecting that the senate will pass the bill as adopted by the house, so they aren’t expecting any further hurdles (especially as they only need 51 votes, so some democratic senators can still be against it).

          • Bill

            So in the beginning, what was the Obama administration proposing as far as health care went?

            And did they or didn’t they have a majority in both houses?

            And what did the Obama administration finally deliver?

            And how many Republicans voted for the reform as it now stands?

            How many Republicans will vote for any further proposals in the future that would shift health care back towards the initial proposal?

            How many Democrats are going to get their arse handed them in mid term primaries because of ‘protest’ voting ( or non-voting) over this and the banking bailout fiasco?

            Will somebody explain to me again why the Obama administration gutted its own health care proposals when it did not need and did not get Republican support? And then explain how things get better in the future given that the Democrats had a majority in both houses prior to the slicing and dicing? A majority they probably wont have again?

            It can’t have anything to do with the Republicans, obviously. And the Tea Party mob aren’t representative of any majority opinion.

            Campaign contributions anyone? Corporate lobbying perhaps? Preferring to take his chances with a pissed off electorate that he may or may not be able to game over the inevitable political suicide he envisages if he bites the corporate hand that feeds him?

            And now can somebody explain to me where representative democracy resides in all of this?

            • Lew

              Bill, the last sentence answers your question: members of the US House of Representatives represent their constituents, not the central party. That’s what they did. The executive can’t whip the legislature: it has to gain support for its initiatives by relatively non-coercive means.

              So while the gap between idea and implementation is pretty large and speaks to a great deal of political mismanagement and the propagandisation of the issue which the teabaggers have achieved, that’s how federal politics in the US works.

              Frankly, I’d prefer in NZ if electorate MPs were not whipped to a party line and could vote their conscience. This way we’d see fewer faits d’accompli presented by the executive to the parliament based on a simple head-count. It would also promote diversity within the parties — liberal or “compassionate” Nat members could actually make that moniker mean something.


              • Bill

                ” members of the US House of Representatives represent their constituents”

                But that’s the nub of the matter int it Lew. Do they represent their constituents? Or do they bend to the wishes of their financial backers? As well as represent their own financial investments before their constituents?

                From the polls that indicated the support level for single payer health care, you really have to stretch a long bow to argue that representatives were representing the wishes of their constituents.

                However, their financial backers and the health of their own investments will be just fine thankyou very much. Wonder how that can be? In a democracy, unless…

              • Lew

                If they don’t, their constituents are free to vote them out. I’ll betcha those Reps know their constituents’ views well enough to have figured out which side of the fence to come down on. Self-preservation indicates that they’ll do what keeps them in a job, and I reckon rather few will get voted out for taking whichever position they took. Are those constituents just blind fools who shouldn’t be trusted with a vote because they’re not competent to exercise it?


              • Bill

                Really fucking disingenuous Lew….or naive.

                When both wings are wrapped up, sold and delivered by and in aid of corporate agendas, then where is the agency in voting?

                You think you can vote them out? How? What %age of votes do you think an independent can get in the US when the independent has no corporate backing, meaning no exposure and no debate on the issues they would seek to bring to the table. Like single payer health care for example.

              • Lew

                No, Bill, neither — just cognisant of the realities of democracy and the fact that despite them, it takes a lot of beating.

                Your initial criticisms were of the Obama administration’s inability to pass a healthcare bill which was radical beyond anyone’s wildest dreams — an opening bid, if you’re familiar with street-market bargaining; and of the executive’s inability to force its caucus to back this electorally suicidal proposal, given the other interests in play. What part of that problem you describe is within the administration’s control? Do you suggest that, since they can’t pass a perfect bill, they shouldn’t pass anything at all? If they can’t get elected on a perfect platform, they should just cede the field? That if they can’t bring the revolution they shouldn’t try? If they can’t force the vested interests to do their bidding then they should be banned?

                Meanwhile, in the real world, Obama and his administration has passed a bit of legislation the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in generations, and which — most importantly — will form the basis for future reforms. It could have been better — but up until now it hasn’t been seen at all. Progress is progress.


              • Bill

                They could have passed a single payer system. Easily. The Democrats had the numbers in both houses. The majority of US citizens wanted it, including 80% of registered democratic voters So no electoral suicide. Unless of course it is not the constituents who determine US politics but the corporations and the lobbyists.

                But regardless of the obvious truth being that democracy is tucked inside the corporate wallet you want to maintain that what has passed is “a piece of legislation the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in generations” !!?

                WTF Lew. That’s just plain idiocy talking.

                And as for it even being progress, why don’t you read the Hedges column I linked way back up yonder. It explains quite simply and clearly in terms that even wide eyed deluded fools can grasp why the bill is not any progress at all and how it is that it will worsen the situation of healthcare in the US

              • Lew

                Bill, the only people who thought single-payer would fly were folk like Dennis “little green men” Kucinich — and even he pulled out. You and I might like it, but the moment it gets floated the “s” word starts to be used — as it did — and that word can torpedo even the most robust progressive campaign without a backdown. Again, this was the politics of the possible.

                I’m not saying that US politics isn’t subject to excessive corporate capture — I’m saying that’s how it is, and you can’t just opt out on that basis. The way it works is that the corporates and the lobbyists deliver a few voters to one, other or both parties, while other voters make up their own mind, and the vast bulk of voters are subject to lobbying but still retain some degree of electoral agency. So for political success it’s necessary to appeal — or at least be tolerably acceptable — to both. This is what the Obama has passed: a compromise which keeps the zealots of neither side happy, but which may yet prove palatable to the vested interests and to the general public.


              • Bill

                Okay Lew.

                45 000 deaths a year through to 2014 due to lack of medical coverage, as lobbied for by corporate interests, is perfectly acceptable and only a zealot would think otherwise.

                And lobbyists deliver voters to parties rather than wrench policy from parties. Whatever.

              • Lew

                Bill, 45,000 deaths a year perfectly acceptable? No. Given that that’s the (apparently highballed) figure from the pro-single-payer lobby Physicians for a National Health Program from before Obamacare, that’s the reason for reform! So given that somewhere around 30 million uninsured Americans will now have access to heathcare, the number, if it’s actually that high to begin with, will come down. Perfect? of course not. Nobody gets a pony with this scheme. Better than the alternative? Yes. This is the real world.

                And thanks for providing me with an example of a lobby of which you approve. Of course they don’t just deliver voters — they also influence policy. I see you understand that they’re not all vultures.


  3. r0b 3

    Excellent summary here of the rabid opposition Obama faced:


    • Bill 3.1

      Obama didn’t face ‘rabid’ opposition. The Tea Party stuff is stuff and nonsense…not just a little like the climate denial camp. They were not the reason for the shape of the bill.

      Obama simply faced and caved to corporate lobbyists and Republican demands for a market driven health care….ie, the insurance market. End.

      Meanwhile ordinary Americans were roundly ignored. Chris Hedges again.

      “Obama and the congressional leadership have consciously shut out advocates of single payer from the debate. The press, including papers such as The New York Times, treats single payer as a fringe movement. The television networks rarely mention it. And yet between 45 and 60 percent of doctors favor single payer. Between 40 and 62 percent of the American people, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, want universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans. The ability of the corporations to discredit and silence voices that represent at least half of the population is another sad testament to the power of our corporate state to frame all discussions.”

      And here’s a link to what looks to me like a genuine grass roots movement. And surprise, surprise, it called for single payer system http://www.healthcare-now.org/

      But lets have the corporate media have us believe that every bugger is a teapartier why don’t we?

      • Ari 3.1.1

        It’s not Obama who caved. The reform really isn’t up to him. It’s the senate that caved- the House actually largely wanted a stronger bill.

  4. gingercrush 4

    That’s all very well Bill. But I don’t know what left critics of this bill wanted. Because they were never going to get the perfect bill. They’re rather lucky anything got passed considering the democrats have been trying this for years. The United States or at least those who vote are largely conservative. Even those on the left would be considered right-wing elsewhere. The left were never going to happy with what was passed. But it could have gone the other way and the Democrats lose the health care debate again. Clinton may have survived his second term but the Democrats in the house and senate were largely destroyed. What happened? The momentum of the left was destroyed for 12 years.

    As it is the left have a real battle in the House and Senate. Though I suspect some of that is overstated.

    • Bill 4.1


      http://www.healthcare-now.org/contact/local-contact-list/ Go through the site. It’s extensive. Then come back and tell me whether you figured out what people…not just ‘left’ critics… wanted.

      Your position speaks of the success of the corporate agenda to narrow the debate and give a false impression of general feeling that led inevitably to limited options. Obama could and should have told the lobbyists and the Republicans to take a hike. Likewise with the banks and the bailouts.

      He would most definitely have had the US population behind him. And that might have been reasonably claimed by some to be a good example of representative democracy at work.

      But, no. Because at the end of the day the public is there merely to choose which corporate bastard will run the corporate agenda for the duration of the next term.

  5. randal 5

    I dont think Obama is any more unpopular than he ever was.
    the opposition is just more vociferous, meaner and nastier than usual as they are the ones who have suffered the defeat not Obama.
    three cheers for the president.

  6. Peter 6

    I still have trouble coming to terms with the level of hatred for Obama as demonstrated by the loonies in the US.

    No matter what side of the political spectrum you inhabit you have to hand it to him, he is one hell of an orator and he seems to have more of a “vision” than anything that Bush & co. demonstrated.

    Now, why don’t we have anyone of his calibre in our part of the world ??

    • Pascal's bookie 6.1

      I still have trouble coming to terms with the level of hatred for Obama as demonstrated by the loonies in the US.

      this explains some, but not all, of it:


      Well, it’s simple, really. They assume, if they don’t state it outright, that large numbers of American voters shouldn’t have the right to vote. That’s the implicit argument when Sarah Palin praises white rural voters as “Real Americans’, when Birthers obsess over the idea that the first black President simply can’t be eligible for office, when tea baggers yell racist and homophobic slurs at politicians, and when they insist that you eliminate black voters from the count if you want to find out how popular a politician “really’ is. When Bart Stupak laughed out loud at the very idea that nuns have opinions worth listening to—and listed a bunch of men whose opinions were the ones that counted—you had a similar sentiment being expressed. Universal suffrage seems like a fundamental part of democracy to liberals, but it appears that conservatives think it de-legitimizes the results of elections. And that if you do something without Republicans on board, you’re eliminating those who represent the only people who count.

      • madnessinc 6.1.1

        It’s no different for the level of hatred for Key/Clark as demonstrated by those in NZ …… a large amount of it is simple moronic tribalism.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Let me know when you see armed kiwi protesters and signs saying the PM should be shot.

          • Peter

            There was a good article about the Secret Service detail that protects Obama in the weekend papers. Very educational as to the level and depth of the loonies in the US..

            For all its faults, we live in a much better place…

        • Lew

          And let me know when respected public personae such as the once-and-future mayor of a major city publicly vilify John Key on the basis of lies about his sexuality, or lies about his support for foreign dictatorships, or just general obsessive character assassination passed off as ordinary day-to-day political commentary.

          When you’ve done that, I’ll grant that your equivalence isn’t entirely false.


          • madnessinc

            So there is no similarity between the moronic political tribalism that is exhibited in the USA and NZ…. mm OK.

            • Lew

              It’s not that there’s no similarity — it’s that your sense of proportion is completely screwed. Equivalences exist on both axes of comparison — between the two tribes, and with regard to the tribes between the two countries. But you need a fucking microscope to see them, they’re so tenuous.


  7. madnessinc 7

    “No matter what side of the political spectrum you inhabit you have to hand it to him, he is one hell of an orator and he seems to have more of a “vision’ than anything that Bush & co. demonstrated.”

    There were plenty of those last century that didn’t turn out too well.

  8. Ag 8

    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.

    This shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. If we look past all the pro-US propaganda, we bump up against the fact that the United States has only been a genuine democracy for the past 45 years.

    Yes, people often forget that the United States only achieved universal suffrage in the mid 60s, but it’s nonetheless a fact, and goes some of the way to explaining why the US is a politically backward country (yes, people tend to forget that as well).

  9. prism 9

    Great news for USA health care and thanks to Barak Obama for a great leap forward for most people probably as improvements to their systems will have wide advantages. The country can hold up its head proudly as a place that has universal services, well almost. Bet there are exceptions here and there but the in-business-we-trust nuts, the anti-abortionist nuts, the reds-under-the-beds nuts, the freedom from government nuts, the backwoods gun nuts, the rigid religious and I’m agin everything nuts and other toxic blooms haven’t won out.

  10. Well done to President Obama.

    This bill will do more good than bad.

    Hes got himself a second term.

    • BLiP 10.1

      I see that the worst fears of the teabaggers have already begun to evaporate into the red mist of hate that they always were.

      • Pascal's bookie 10.1.1

        I’ve already got my invite to serve on the first Death Panel of the Kenyan International Socialist Islamic Front for the Fu(t)herance of making the Baby Jesus Cry. It’s gonna be sweet.

        Anyone you want offed?

  11. Roger 11

    This was a great victory for President Obama. Great news for those who were unable to afford health insurance – bad news for those private health insurance companies who enjoyed overcharging American workers. The far right assertions that government involvement in healthcare is “communism” says more about them than it does about Obama.

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