WASHINGTON -- It was such a great day that I'm of a mind to repeat the final words of "The Music Man," the musical about the bandleader-from-nowhere who comes to a small town in the Midwest and organizes the children into a great marching band.
Everyone in town has been so happy with the music that they are crying as he is leaving, but he alleviates their pain with his superlative farewell: "Remember," he tells the broken-hearted children, "there's always a band playing somewhere!"
Indeed there is, and although I did not myself hear it, it seemed quite clear to me that the band was playing here on Thursday. Somewhere up around the Supreme Court, first; then the music moved down toward the White House; and finally it settled up at the Capitol.
There, the Republicans began tearing their hair and crying out that they would repeal "Obamacare" the first moment they controlled things. As for the Democrats, many of them were held in such thrall by the event that they thought they had died and gone to heaven, their way paved by the law newly blessed by the Supreme Court.
In short, Thursday was indeed a great day. The central component of the Obama administration's health care law was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court. That part, which requires that everyone have health insurance, is not only moral, but also the only way a new health care system can be financed, and it could fit under the tax laws and still be constitutional, the court ruled.
The other surprise was that, with five Republicans and four Democrats on the court, it was Chief Justice John Roberts who changed his usual vote and voted for the Democratic law. After that, Republicans asked, what next could surprise them?
Well, we can hope ... a great deal!
This health care controversy, which has had screaming, cursing Republicans in high dudgeon to destroy the Democrats and their health bill, has not, until now, shown American culture at its best. Republicans have not had very good intentions; they don't seem to care what happens to the poor.
Over the last three years, I've asked Republican thinkers what they would do with the poor who did not have health insurance. One told me he would send them to the Dickens poor house. Heavens, it's on the telly almost every night on "Masterpiece Theatre" -- it can't be that bad.
Perhaps I am unusually caught up in President Obama's health care program because of my own appalling experience. After a botched tongue cancer operation, I landed in Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the doctors aren't bad but the nurses are. Two-thirds of my tongue had to be taken out, so the wonder was I could talk at all. Then, nine months into my "recuperation," my insurance company -- I had paid insurance for 50 years of work -- canceled me. Something about costs.
"You can go on Medicare," I was told -- and I did. But as efficient as Medicare is, it doesn't pay for everything by far. The last three years, I have paid, in addition to Medicare and United Health Care, no less than $100,000 of my own money.
When I wrote about it in my column, I received such an outpouring of sad, frightened letters of the same genre that I wanted to answer each one. Daughters who had committed suicide after undergoing the same operation I had, people who could not speak at all, men with whole jaws taken off ... It was horrible.
Anyone who has gone through my experience could not take the Republican way today. I hope that, even without this experience, I would have cared about others, and I believe I would have.
As for Barack Obama, thanks for everything. I'll try to answer those fools who say that you are putting the government in charge of everything in health care, for it surely doesn't look like that to me. Your program is a mix of private business, private doctors, co-ops, Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor, plus an array of health care companies to choose from. I can't think of a better grouping.
What President Obama did so early in his presidency was greatly criticized because of its timing. But forgive me if I think that was the only way to do it. It is the only way, too, to have a truly developed society, to have a healthy populace. But the story is not yet over.
Already the insurance companies have been weaving into their programs parts of Obamacare, so changes are just beginning. But the important thing is they ARE beginning.
- Health Care Policy
- health insurance
- President Obama