How Has the Health Care Debate Changed?

How has the health care debate changed?

I was in line for a flu shot this morning, after reading over the weekend about the possibility of the worst flu season in forty years, thinking about health care.

I know I’m not the only one. You can’t turn on the news without getting slapped in the face by a pundit or a Senator with an opinion. It struck me, as the nurse slid the needle into my shoulder, that any flu crisis this fall could act as a magnifying glass for one of the two sides in this fight. Should there be mistakes made by doctors, long lines for vaccinations, millions of people hospitalized, or (God forbid) a large number of swine flu related deaths, the Democrats stance that health care in America needs to be revamped will be bolstered. On the other hand, should the flu crisis simply not happen, or should America be as well prepared as possible when the crisis starts, Republicans won’t have to worry about the new face of the health debate. It was just a thought.

Back in the real world, I started to gather quotes and new reports on the health care debate. After all, President Obama’s been on vacation for a week. It’s time to look at the new face of the health care debate — and to reflect on what the debate means in a world without Senator Kennedy.

It seems that Republicans are kicking off up their new offensive just in tirm for our lawmakers to gather back in Washington, D.C. after their summer break. As the date of legislative commencement gets closer, the Democrats have thrown their hat into the ring as well, attempting to come up with new means by which they can gain the support of Americans.

We’ve all heard by now that Senator Ted Kennedy made health care overhaul the “cause of his life” right up to the very end, and we expected Democrats to evoke his memory in order to advance their agenda and pass new health care reform legislation. There has been conjecture that Democrats will put Kennedy’s name on the bill, in memory of the Senator who fought hard for this reform.

Speaking in Toronto, President Bill Clinton had this to say about Kennedy’s passing — “I hope that his lifetime dream — that America finally will follow Canada and every other advanced nation in the world in providing affordable health care to all of our people — will pass.” Clinton had high praise for the Canadian health care system, HealthCanada, though many critics feel that their system of universal coverage wouldn’t quite work in our country.

Let it be said, for once and for all, that Senator Kennedy was in favor of a universal health coverage system, much like HealthCanada, and was one of the first to suggest that health insurance be made a requirement for all Americans. Democrats say Kennedy’s death should help push the health care debate in a direction that favors the outcomes they’re looking for — the debate in Washington is quite divided both between parties and among them. Within the Democratic party there is much disagreement — some more conservative Democrats are seriously opposed to some of the more leftist measures proposed by the President and his cabinet, and they want “clarity” in terms of how the government would pay for this major overhaul.

Others against the President’s health care proposals say that they disagree with the way Obama’s message has been presented, and that the Democrat’s talking points need to change even as Americans are growing increasingly suspicious of health care reform. For example, Former Sen. Tom Daschle said the White House and Democrats need to do work on making the issue of health care reform a kind of “moral imperative” for the country, to make the case that without this reform, our quality of life will decrease.

Daschle said the Republican party has demonstrated an “organizational strength” that he does not see from the side of the Democrats. Personally, I think he’s referring to the dispensation that occurs among right wingers, who tune into Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and other condensed sources to find out how they should feel about an issue. But I suppose Daschle’s point still holds some truth — the political left needs to do a better job of boiling the issue down to its major themes, points that “really motivate and have emotional value” in the words of Tom Daschle.

It isn’t just the Democrats who are being unrealistic. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on Monday that ” . . . there is no need for an overhaul of the entire health care system” going so far as to call the U.S. health care system the “best in the world”. Who’s being unrealistic now, Republicans?