Commentary: U.S. will eventually love health care overhaul

The Rock Hill HeraldApril 1, 2010 

Pop quiz, who said the following: "We do not want socialized medicine ... Behind it will come other government programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day ... we will wake to find that we have socialism ... We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free."

Sen. Jim DeMint? Nope. Rush Limbaugh? Nope. House Minority Leader John Boehner? Nope. Speaker at a Tea Party rally? Nope.

No, it was the Gipper, Ronald Reagan, warning the nation in 1961 about the terrifying threat of Medicare. The speech was recorded on an LP for the American Medical Association.

Back then, the AMA was the chief opponent of Medicare and any kind of health care reform. This year, the AMA endorsed President Obama's health care reform package.

Some might say Reagan was right 49 years ago and that Obamacare is the proof of that. But I suspect millions more Americans are grateful for Medicare and the peace of mind it has provided senior citizens for nearly half a century.

It is ironic, though, that the scare tactics used to oppose Medicare in the 1960s -- not to mention Social Security in the 1940s -- were much the same as what critics of comprehensive health care reform are saying about the bill signed into law by the president this week. If anything, the current rhetoric is even more overheated: "This is a socialistic plan to deprive you of your freedom, kill your grandmother and bankrupt the nation in the process."

Americans should take comfort from that. The nation came to love both Social Security and Medicare, and I predict they will come to love the new health care reforms, too.

What's not to like? Once this bill is in place:

Insurers won't be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The so-called "donut hole" in prescription drug plans for seniors will disappear.

Small businesses will get tax credits to extend coverage to employees.

Children will be able to remain on parents' insurance plans until age 26.

Insurers won't be able to set lifetime caps on coverage.

Coverage will include preventive care.

People will not lose coverage because they get sick.

Medicare will be expanded in rural areas.

More affordable coverage will be available to early retirees.

These new provisions will have to be paid for by cutting some superfluous Medicare services, by taxing some high-priced insurance plans and by raising taxes on couples who make $500,000 or more a year.

Am I bothered by that? Not a bit. We'll be getting a lot in return, while reducing the deficit in the process.

Sure, problems will arise. Omissions will be discovered. Changes will be made. This plan will evolve, just as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and any other significant social program has evolved throughout our history.

But we won't become a carbon-copy of Sweden. We won't have to put granny on an ice floe. We won't be forced to make Dr. Mengele our family physician.

We will, in all likelihood, make life better for more than 30 million currently uninsured Americans. We will, as a nation, be healthier. We will, ultimately, get a better return on the money we spend on health care.

Many are predicting that passage of health care reforms will be a political disaster for the Democrats. I think it's possible the opposite could occur.

If Democrats can successfully explain the benefits of this complicated plan in simple English, voters could come to embrace it. And that could be a disaster for Republicans, who did everything they could to swamp this bill and who told their followers that a virtual Armageddon would result if the bill passed.

That's the problem with such dire prognostications. If the world doesn't end, if the sun comes up tomorrow, if, instead of finding herself on an ice floe, granny finds a $250 rebate check for prescription drugs in her mailbox, the GOP might find itself in a fix -- and on the wrong side of history. Again.

I will go out on a limb and make this prediction: At a Tea Party rally some 20 or 30 years down the road, an enraged citizen at a town hall meeting, probably in South Carolina, will shout the words: "Keep your government hands off my Obamacare!"

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