Moment of reckoning

On health care, history is calling

In his remarkable new book, The Healing of America, Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid writes that whether the United States creates a health-care system that serves all of its citizens ultimately is a moral question. And that question, he says, is this: Do we who live in one of the richest countries in the world believe it is morally acceptable for people to go without medical care if they can’t afford to pay for it?

The countries that have asked and answered that question, Reid says, are those that have developed comprehensive health-care systems, and that includes every other wealthy industrialized country.

Reid traveled the world, studying these different health-care systems. No two are the same, he writes, and each has its faults. But all serve everyone, rich and poor alike, and all are much less expensive than the current American system.

For the first time ever, comprehensive health-care reform is within reach in this country. Similar reform bills have made it through multiple committees in both houses of Congress and are nearing floor votes.

Many lawmakers find the bills imperfect, though for different reasons. Some progressive Democrats lament that they don’t contain a “strong” public option tied to Medicare rates—though they do have a public option that would involve negotiating payment rates. “Blue Dog” Democrats worry that the public option, such as it is, and more-generous subsidies for lower-income families will increase the deficit—even though the Congressional Budget Office has stated otherwise.

And Republicans will vote against the plans simply because they want to see the Obama administration fail.

So be it. For any member of Congress with eyes to see, history is calling. After decades of failed efforts, we are so close. If we miss this opportunity, another may not arise for decades. The winds of hope and change are as favorable as they can get.

But the American people shouldn’t just sit back and wait for their lawmakers to decide. Let them know you’ve answered that great moral question yourself and are convinced that medical care should be available to all Americans, rich and poor alike. Write, e-mail or telephone and tell them you want them to seize this historic moment, once and for all.