Apparently that moniker was coined by Hillary Clinton back in 2008 when she ran against Barack Obama in the primaries. She called her own plan Clintoncare. We’re talking about national health coverage. Why not call it that? Because the name is politically neutral -- neither a rallying cry for one side nor a cudgel for the other.Both parties know our health insurance system is broken. Neither knows how to fix it. All they know is that any plan the other party offers must be shot down.
When Obama won the White House in '08, Republicans set out to destroy him. What better way to squash any chance he might actually reform the U.S. health care system than by attaching his name to the Affordable Care Act? They then demonized Obama because of who he is, a black man with a funny name and a liberal agenda. Hate the man; hate the legislation.
There’s one problem. Should Obama’s plan actually work, his name will be forever linked with a piece of legislation similar to social security. The Social Security Act signed by President Franklin d. Roosevelt in 1935 was much debated and not universally popular at the time, but it underwent a number of amendments and has provided a degree of financial protection to billions of Americans. Today it’s known as the “third rail” in politics. No one in Congress wants to touch it.
On the other hand, the president has angered many of his own supporters because the piecemeal legislation that bears his name does not address the most pressing problem: how to assure that everyone pays into the program so that everyone is covered. If individuals are allowed to opt out when they are young and healthy, and the sick can opt in when they need care, there’s no way on earth the system will work.
Only a single-payer program will. Other nations can do it. Why can’t we?
The reason is obvious. Congress has to work together for the good of the country, and that isn’t going to happen, not as long as big money controls the playing field. Right now, Obama is just as beholden to the big insurance companies, the big pharmaceutical companies and the AARP as is Congress. He commands the bully pulpit and little else.
There is one more player in the game: the American public. When I’m working on a column, I try to engage friends and family in the issue. Usually, I get some useful feedback. Not on the health care bill. People find it too complicated and simply don’t want to think about it. Conservatives react with knee-jerk negativism, liberals with weary cynicism.
Neither side believes Congress can work together to craft a single payer program acceptable to the country as a whole. Obama is a charismatic speaker, but there are few fence-sitters left to influence. Big Business can spend as much money as it likes to protect its interests. The only player left is the American public.
The public, when it chooses to act in unison, can still rattle a few cages. The tea party has proved it. I’ve never been a supporter. However, when tea party groups went after Georgia Power for construction cost overruns at the Plant Vogtle nuclear facility, and for forcing customers to pay in advance for new plants that might never be completed, the Associated Press jumped on the story. The Southern Co., Georgia Power’s parent organizatin, began to pay attention, and the anti-nuke crowd cheered.
A passel of irate citizens can still shake up the big boys. If the public wants to reform U.S. health care, it has to act with one voice. Big Money knows this and uses its resources to divide and conquer. If we the public let this happen, we’ve nobody to blame but ourselves if the U.S. health care system remains broken.
Joan King is a resident of Sautee. Her column appears biweekly.