On Christmas Eve in 1981, my father died of a heart attack in a Brooklyn emergency room while waiting for a hospital bed that never manifested.  Dad died because he didn’t have private insurance or a cardiologist who would have advocated on his behalf.

Christmas Eve of 2009 marks an historical moment and a first-hand view of American politics. The Senate and House of Representatives will convene to decide whether to pass a unified bill on healthcare “reform”. To vote on Christmas Eve is not a coincidence: there will be pressure to simply gloss over the bill so that everyone can rush home for Christmas. 

The House had the mettle to include a public health option. However, sixty dealmakers in the Senate did not. They plan to have the foxes continue to watch over the chickens, then had the temerity to call it reform.

Thank you, Victoria Kennedy. I desperately needed to know how your wonderful husband would have responded. I was so despondent at the shenanigans of both Democrats and Republicans that I was ready to relinquish my voter’s card.

No, it is not practical to abandon this grossly imperfect healthcare bill and start anew but we definitely need to have protective measures in place. Sui Generis (self-regulation) will not and should not be the order of the day. It didn’t work in the past and it certainly won’t work in the future. Insurance companies are NOT going to do the right thing once politicians stop looking. If Americans are forced to remain with private insurers then we need an enforcer of strict regulation.  An Insurance Czar is definitely needed; an Elliot Ness or an Elliot Spitzer will do just fine. We also need answers to the following questions:

  1. Will the premiums for people with pre-existing conditions be higher and by how much?
  2. Will there be some outside regulatory agency to govern the insurance companies in the event of misdeeds?
  3. Will there be co-pays and deductibles and by how much?
  4. Will there be a limit of services provided by these so-called state regulated insurance plans, i.e., will the poor receive less services based on the type of insurance they have?
  5. How much assistance will the middle class receive regarding insurance premium payments? 10%, 20%, or 30%?
  6. Is there a cap on how much an insurance CEO can earn?
  7. Will there be reductions in payments of Medicare and Medicaid to physicians?
  8. Will these plans be taxed to people who earn above a predetermined income?

No one wants a perfect plan, just a fair one. That is not too much to ask. President John F. Kennedy said it best: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”.

 I hope the politicians are listening.