Friday, February 26, 2010
Cleaver: Distance between Democrats and Republicans on health care is a bridge too far
Making the comparison with an old movie, Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, said the difference between Democrats and Republicans on health care, is "a bridge too far":
I didn’t actually see much of the Summit at Blair House. Only the highlights (and lowlights) replayed last night. It is not that I didn’t want to sit and listen to seven hours of discussion, but the House was in session and I was in Committee.
I was reminded of an incredibly long WWII film released in the late 70’s called “A Bridge Too Far”. If you don’t remember this movie, it has everyone and his brother in it: Sean Connery, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman even Laurence Olivier shows up and Robert Redford joins the movie in the last third to almost save the day. All that is to say, it was a star-studded movie. The picture was about “Operation Market Garden”, an attempt to secure a series of bridges along the Rhine that failed at the Battle of Arnhem. The Allies were able to seize all the bridges but the last one at Arnhem, which ended in a deadly and hard fought retreat.
The title line comes at the end of the movie, when a Lt. General says, “I always thought the plan was a bridge too far.”
Much like the movie itself, this is a very long way to get to the point. Despite the assembled star- studded cast, the excellent script and the perfect setting, yesterday’s Health Care Summit proved that bridging the gap between Republicans and Democrats on health care, at this point, is a bridge too far.
While the Summit certainly illuminated many Republican proposals that are already in the current legislation and several places that we can perhaps work together, there are simply fundamental differences between us that are very hard to span.
For my part, I am all for compromise, but I HAVE compromised. Getting to a public option was a compromise for me, and that is now completely been ruled out. There is no negotiating the difference between covering 3 million more Americans as the Republican plan would do and covering 30 million more as our plan would.
The same markets that are being advocated by some as the saviors of the system are the ones that have gotten us here in the first place. The same, laissez-faire policies are the ones that drove our economy to the brink. Have we not learned anything from the economic meltdown? I am a free market capitalist, but at some point a sense of fairness and equity is needed.
I am reminded of a story about health care reform in Missouri. In the mid 90’s the Missouri legislature was trying to require that an annual mammogram, for any women over 40, be considered a standard procedure. Prior to this law, mammograms were considered elective and carried a fairly large price tag; so many women did not catch treatable breast cancer early.
During the Senate hearings in Jefferson City, the health insurance companies kept citing a cost figure that no one could figure out. Essentially, they were arguing that it would cost hundreds of millions to cover an annual mammogram and that cost would be passed on to other customers. Sound familiar?
How could this be? Early detection surely would mean cost savings in the long run. Early stage cancer is much easier to treat and certainly more survivable. It didn’t make sense.
As the sponsor of the bill dug into the numbers it became horrifyingly clear what math the insurance companies were using to arrive at their bankruptcy-inducing number.
The hundreds of millions they had counted in costs came from the increased expense of caring for women who survived their cancer. After all, they would need care for the rest of their adult life. These cold companies had told a Senate committee via spreadsheet that it was cheaper for them for a woman to die early of breast cancer than for her to survive and live a long life.
And these are the same companies we are supposed to trust now. This is the marketplace in which we are to put our faith.
The simple fact is, health care reform will make insurance better and cheaper in the long run for those who are lucky enough to have it now; make it illegal to not cover those who are born with diseases through no fault of their own; and for the first time, offer the security of health insurance to all Americans.
Sometimes you have to draw a line. Some bridges are just too far.