|In the past, I had previously defined success as increasing the power of the Progressive Block and passing a nationally-available public option tied to Medicare rates. My thinking on the matter started to change when Representative Alan Grayson started talking about the number of people who die each year from health insurance. Even though I, and other members of my family, had gone through sometimes lengthy periods without health insurance, it was still not an angle I had considered previously. Saving those lives is a very powerful, ethical argument to me.
Granted, it is not entirely clear how many people die each year because they lack health insurance. Different studies have suggested 18,000, 45,000), or an unknownable number anywhere from zero to 36,000. Still, the varying studies make it highly likely that at least several thousand people die each year from a lack of health insurance. With that in mind, the Senate bill reduces the number of people uninsured in this country by roughly two-thirds, which will save two-thirds of those at least several thousand lives. The House bill will reduce the number of uninsured by roughly 75%, thus saving three-fourths of those at least several thousand lives.
Funneling huge amounts of customers and public money to for-profit health insurance companies is offensive to me ideologically. The continued lack of influence Congressional Progressives have over public policy is also extremely frustrating. However, thousands of people dying because they can't afford any health insurance at all is much worse than both of those negative outcomes combined. I don't think I could tell anyone who can't afford any health insurance that I would prefer they not have any insurance at all than have subsidized insurance from a for-profit company. Further, I don't think I could tell anyone who can't afford health insurance that I would prefer they not have any insurance at all than for the Progressive Caucus to remain relatively less-influential than the Blue Dogs. When faced with a choice between the status-quo, and providing subsidies to make it easier for low-income people to purchase private health insurance, I choose the subsidies.
On average, by the middle of the next decade, the House and Senate bills will use about 0.5% of the national GDP to subsidize low-income people purchasing health insurance, and place about 0.2% of GDP into a new public health insurance option. While neither of those victories are assured, and while neither of those victories are anywhere as large as could have been, they are still two of the only long-term expansions of the social safety net in decades. And, as such, they are still progressive victories--perhaps even large victories, given how rare any progressive victories have become.
There are still important remaining questions about reproductive rights and the ultimate fate of the public option, but in broad strokes this is where I stand. I know not everyone is going to agree, but not everyone agreed with the Progressive Block, either. Our community is neither static nor homogeneous, and it never will be.