Change to believe in

By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE

When U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the most sweeping changes in the history of his country’s health care system on Tuesday, he did what none of seven of his predecessors over the past 60 years since Harry Truman has been able to do.

With the stroke of a pen (several, actually) he reformed a system that has, for much too long, left too many Americans without the safety net of proper health care. Now, an estimated 32 million more Americans will be covered, equal to almost the entire population of Canada.

Many of us here to the north, who take our own health care for granted, have followed the Obama health care campaign closely and have been bewildered that such a great people could be so lacking in compassion for the more vulnerable among them.

The fact that health insurance companies could refuse to cover people who might have had a previous illness (what they call a pre-existing condition) regardless of whether or not it may have had any connection to a current ailment, leaving them to fend for themselves, even to the point of bankruptcy, boggles the mind. Or that they could cut off a patient already under care because of escalating costs. Or they could refuse to cover children.

All that changes now with this new legislation.

No longer will insurance companies be allowed to deny coverage to people with so called pre-existing conditions; no longer will they be able to cut off patients – including children – whose medical care turns out to be extraordinarily expensive; no longer will Americans have to choose between paying their mortgage and buying health insurance.

For those who are unable to purchase health insurance from the established companies, a number of Exchanges or pools will be set up from which they will be able to buy their insurance and which will be available for them should they or their loved ones get ill.

Children will also be covered on their parents’ policies until they reach the age of 26.

The United States has already spent over a trillion dollars to fight two wars, ostensibly to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, including assisting girls to get an education, yet some Americans balk at spending money to look after their own. It seems they would rather saddle their grandchildren with debt for war than health care for fellow Americans.

Some Obama supporters are still not happy with this legislation. They feel it didn’t go far enough. And we agree. However, it is a compromise legislation to get it passed through both the U.S. House and the Senate. It is a case of half-a-loaf being better than none at all.

It also is not universal or government-run health care as we in Canada know it. The insurance companies will still be at the centre of the health care system, albeit with more controls on them.

Much of the protests against Obama’s health care plan over the past 14 or so months have been downright nasty. Loud, angry and nasty. And, there are those who believe that it is only because of Obama’s colour. The fact is that his White predecessors themselves failed to get health care reform passed so this has been about more than race or colour. It has been about power and control and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to stop the legislation from seeing the light of day.

We are happy for Obama. We are happy that he once again has created history. But, we are also happy for the American people who will benefit from this legislation and hope that they will see the opposition Republicans for what they truly are, a bunch of self-serving people who are only interested in regaining power at all costs. (Hopefully, American voters will remember what they did to the country when they last were in government, and the mess they left that Obama is still trying to clean up.)

Finally, to answer Sarah Palin’s question: “How’s that changey, hopey thing working out for ya?”

On behalf of the American people we say: “Fine, Sarah! Just pretty darn fine.”

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