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The Deadly Cost of Blocking Health Care Reform

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Posted on Dec 18, 2009
Howard Dean
AP / Charles Dharapak

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean answers a question at a public meeting on health care reform hosted by Dean and Rep. Jim Moran in Reston, Va., last August.

By Bill Boyarsky

The liberals attacking the Senate health reform bill must never have known real illness. They’ve never been fired at the age of 50 and left without health insurance. They’ve probably never known anyone who died for lack of health insurance.

Those are the only reasons I can think of for their last-minute and thoroughly despicable assault on the bill struggling through the Senate.

Spare me their attacks on President Barack Obama, who doesn’t measure up to their impossible standards. And spare me Howard Dean. I thought Joe Lieberman was the dumbest politician from New England until Dean urged Senate Democrats to vote against health reform.

These people are every bit as destructive as the Senate Republicans who spent Friday holding up a defense spending bill that included a pay raise for the troops.

Thousands of people are likely to die if this health care bill is not signed into law.

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That’s the conclusion of studies by the Urban Institute and the Institute of Medicine. Their predictions have been pretty much ignored as Obama’s Democratic critics whine about his failure to support the public option or the provision permitting those 55 and older to buy into Medicare.

The studies, based on census figures, looked at the years 2000 through 2006 and estimated that 137,000 died because they lacked health insurance. In 2006, 22,000 died. According to the studies, the death rate of the uninsured was 25 percent higher than that of the insured.

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein, one of the sharpest journalists writing about the health fight, noted that “since the population of the uninsured grows every year, and so does the death toll, it surely would be higher [than 137,000].” He estimated the number would grow to 150,000 dead.

“The uninsured are less likely to seek early care,” he wrote. “They are less likely to get good care. They are less likely to return for follow-up care. They are less likely to afford the maintenance of chronic conditions. … Medicare saved lives. Medicaid saved lives. … And health-care reform will save lives, too. … And those who would be so cavalier as to close the door because of the public option or the Medicare buy-in, or the absence of either thing, should think long and hard about those numbers.”

I didn’t hear Dr. Howard Dean, speaking from the sidelines, talk about saving lives when he denounced the bill in the Senate. I just saw a disagreeable, disappointed politician, angry because Obama didn’t appoint him to be secretary of health and human services and didn’t support him for another term as national party chairman.

Then MSNBC jumped on the anti-Obama bandwagon, hoping to attract a big audience of liberals in its competition with right-wing Fox News. Along for the ride are a lot of liberal bloggers, sensing they can attract readers.

It’s infuriating watching the Senate Republicans waste time in their repetitive rants, holding up everything in an attempt to run out the clock and beat health reform that way. The Republican goal is clear: Kill this bill and set the stage for victories in the congressional election in 2010 and the presidential election in 2012.

But Democratic liberals are supposed to value human lives. Those who’ve chosen to take a stand against health reform are willing to let people die because the current bill isn’t exactly what they want.

This bill is better than anything in our present health care system. It will be improved in Senate-House conference. It will be further improved in years ahead. And it will save lives.


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By idarad, December 18, 2009 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment

All I can say is thank god (if there be one) for men like Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders. To pass a bill for the sake of passing a bill is immoral.  Health care is not a negotiation - it is not a compromise - it is not take a little now and in another hundred years we might be able to ask for more.  Health care is a social
obligation.  If bullhead boyarsky wants to point a finger of blame, point it at the morally deficient repiglicins, the blue dog democrats, raul emmanual, and…....

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By Derek Postlewaite, December 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This piece lacks an elaborated explanation as to why the bill is worth anything, and why the attacking liberals should stop their assault.  I think Howard Dean is right in coming out against this bill.  At least Democrats and liberals and bloggers are against the bill for the right reasons, unlike the majority of conservatives.  Yes, health care reform will save lives, but this bill is far from representing health care reform, and that is exactly what everyone is so pissed off about.

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By Smudge Martens, December 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment

Did this guy study animal husbandry with straw horses?

Instead of ad hominem attacks on those liberals and “their last-minute and thoroughly despicable assault on the bill struggling through the Senate” why not address their arguments and prove that they are demonstratively wrong in their analysis of the disastrous long term fallout of this anemic compromise.

Calling Howard Dean the dumbest politician from New England and stating that he is, “angry because Obama didn’t appoint him to be secretary of health and human services and didn’t support him for another term as national party chairman” is freshman sophistry.

Stop the name calling and outrageous indignation – be a man, get off your ass, roll up your sleeves and write an objective, defendable analysis or continue to play petulant cowboy with your petty straw horses.

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