I recently read a story about a Republican member of the House of Representatives who was running for the Senate. He said the newest Democratic proposal to improve America's health care system was "socialized medicine." And though you might have seen those words appear in any Republican statement released within the last few hours, the year I'm talking about is 1964, the candidate was George H.W. Bush, and the program was Medicare.
Funny that his very own son, former President George W. Bush, called Medicare "one of the most important contributions to seniors' health care ever enacted." For decades, we've seen Democrats pass successful programs that Republicans lambaste as the end of civilization, only to watch these programs become wildly successful and popular.
In 1935, when people were struggling through an economic depression and millions of Americans needed additional support, Democrats delivered with Social Security.
In 1965, when many of the nation's seniors couldn't afford basic medical care, Democrats delivered with Medicare. And in 2010, when insurance companies made billions in profit as they watched 45,000 Americans die each year simply because they didn't have health insurance, Democrats delivered with health care reform.
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Much has been said about what health care reform will do to Democrats on Election Day in November.
Republicans have charged that Americans didn't want this bill. And if this legislation actually looked anything like what Republicans have described it as, I wouldn't want it, either. But as the dust settles in the wake of the bill's passage, Americans will now have the chance to actually see what's in the legislation and how it will help them and their families. I must say, there's quite a lot to be proud of in this bill.
Over the next few months, it will give small businesses tax credits so that employers can afford to give coverage to their employees. It will provide free preventive care to seniors so that they get to the doctor before they get sick. It will end the practice of rescissions, which insurers have used to drop coverage for sick people.
As other reforms get implemented over the next few years, 32 million uninsured Americans will receive health coverage. We'll see the creation of health insurance exchanges, which will make it simpler for consumers to understand and purchase policies, increase competition among insurance companies and drive down costs for policyholders. And it does all of this and a lot more while reducing the deficit by $130 billion over the next 10 years by reining in waste, fraud and abuse.
Republicans are already talking about repealing the legislation. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., is already circulating a letter to her colleagues saying that since they couldn't kill it, they are going to have to undo it.
Want to take away health coverage from 32 million Americans? Be my guest. Want to tell insurance companies that they can start denying health coverage to people with pre-existing conditions again? Have at it. But between now and November, I think many Americans will have the chance to see all the beneficial things in this legislation without having to listen to the deafening clamor of the Republican misinformation machine.
Now, might the Democratic Party lose a few seats? Absolutely. But I highly doubt that it's going to be the massacre Republicans are hoping for.
Perhaps Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, best summed up the Democrats' prospects in November: "If they [pass health care reform], of course, you're going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country because almost everybody's going to say, 'All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party.'"
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Contact McDermott, D-Wash., one of the few physicians in the U.S. Congress, at 1035 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.