The process of passing a healthcare bill has been ugly and at some points downright depressing. I am not advocating that the Democrats pass what they have. But if you look closely at the political landscape Democrats find themselves in, then it is obvious they have no choice but to pass healthcare reform and the window is closing quickly.
Yes, the healthcare reform bills that have passed the House and Senate are unpopular, and yes, the Democrats will pay for passing something, to be sure. But as I explained in my column this week, the price of inaction is far greater.
One day, in another political environment, Democrats would be able to say they passed something to help Americans secure healthcare at an uncertain time, when losing a job means losing coverage. One day Democrats would be able to say they ended the abusive practices of insurance companies.
But if they don't pass it, they are the party of bailouts, of deficits, of legislative gridlock, of infighting over abortion, of overreach — the party that couldn't govern. There is no time to "work with Republicans" on a smaller bill of popular consumer protections like the end of lifetime caps on coverage or the ban on coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Why? Because if you pass those without covering everybody, costs go up sharply. Republicans aren't going to support a mandate or subsidies to expand the coverage pool.
Democrats are in a corner, and time is running out. But after spending generations promising healthcare reform, Democrats simply must jump off this cliff.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF OBAMA'S SOTU SPEECH? Ask A.B. returns Monday, Feb. 1. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.