It’s not universal healthcare, but it is in fact a pretty big fucking deal.
With the health care reform bill that President Obama signed yesterday, 32 million of this country’s poorest people will now receive health care coverage for the first time and millions more will get help with paying for the health care they have. The practical effects of the bill go beyond health care – The New York Times called the bill “the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.”
In New Mexico – one of the nation’s poorest states with one of the highest rate of uninsured people – at least 100,000 people will likely become eligible for Medicaid, and many more with moderate incomes will get help buying insurance.
Far from being a step toward socialism, as its hysterical detractors claim, what happened yesterday was historic and hard-fought and every bit as American as baseball and apple pie.
Students of history know that the health care act has echoes in the human rights campaign of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. When he was murdered, King was in act of transitioning the civil rights movement against segregation into the broader “Poor People’s Campaign.” That movement called for an “economic bill of rights” for the poor that included governmental commitments to employment, housing and health care.
Movement marcher John Lewis was central to MLK’s movement then as an organizer and he was central again 40 years later, as a senior congressman from Georgia overseeing the campaign for health care coverage in Congress.
Last week, in an outrageous twist of events, Lewis was targeted on Capitol Hill by anti health care protestors who spit on him and called him a “nigger.” Some things haven’t moved very far in 40 years, I guess.
(You know what they say about those who ignore history.)
Inevitably, the “Party of No” continues to portray the health care reform bill in ridiculous and overblown terms. Horriffically ugly and inaccurate demonstrations marked the discussion of the bill, with protesters likening Obama to Hitler and Stalin – and Republican officeholders not doing much to tamp them down.
Ironically, the odd bedfellows who oppose health care include both those within the insurance industry who have benefitted hugely from the current, bloated American corporate system – and those with virtually nothing who have been victimized by the same system but fail to see the connection.
At Clearly New Mexico, we believe that universal health care for all is a basic human right deeply rooted in the history and promise of America – and we are gratified to see the bill yesterday as being a huge step toward that worthy goal.