The term "historic" can be used in wild excess, but it fits the House's dramatic approval late Sunday of health care reform.
True, many details must be worked out, particularly on containing ever-spiraling health costs. The plan will be immensely complicated to implement, as it always is when trying to harness the free market to achieve a social good. There will be short-term pain as some pay higher taxes, and while some of the most important benefits kick in this year, others won't start until 2014.
But the sweeping legislation promises to make America a healthier and more just society. Its significance is on par with Social Security and the Civil Rights Act. It will extend coverage to 32 million Americans without insurance – more than 5 million of them in California – whose ranks are growing every year and many of whom are one illness away from the poorhouse.
It will prevent insurers from writing off those with pre-existing conditions, pulling coverage when someone gets sick and needs it most and from using other unfair practices to pad their profits. And it will loosen the chain between employment and insurance, protecting those who get laid off and helping would-be entrepreneurs who, in the absence of affordable health care, might be reluctant to chase their dreams.
The Senate should quickly pass the companion "fix-it" bill before the special interests and protectors of the status quo try to muck up the deal.
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