When the various cable news channels announced that they would broadcast the health-care summit, I thought this meant uninterrupted coverage. I was mistaken. They not only interrupted for commercials, but they interrupted for commentary. This left me surfing the channels to find uninterrupted coverage. I commend Fox News for broadcasting the morning session uninterrupted. But, it too interrupted during the afternoon. Finally, I gave up on television and watched most of the afternoon session online.
The commentary, both during and after the event, was disappointing. It was basically useless. The pundits were primarily interested in who won or lost. They were interested in process and politics. There was some fact checking, but not nearly enough information that would clarify terms and issues. There was petty critique of the President for calling the Congress members by their given names. I can imagine that had the President called them by their titles and their surnames that he would have been criticized for being formal, distant and cold.
However, I did manage to see most of the summit. Both sides came armed with their rhetorical weapons. Democrats spoke of ordinary people and the problems they have with insurance companies and rising premiums. They spoke of the tragedy of people dying because they lack health insurance. Democrats spoke about areas of agreement with Republicans.
Republicans came armed with stacks of papers, the Senate bill. They spoke of waste, fraud, and abuse, the idea that the federal government ought not to require people to buy health insurance or set minimum standards for health insurance coverage. They complained about back-room deals and called for the Democrats in the Senate to renounce use of the reconciliation process to pass changes in the Senate health-reform bill. They spoke of tort reform. They spoke of all these things with the constant refrain that the lawmakers ought to abandon the legislation that has passed both houses of Congress and begin the process anew.
What was abundantly clear is that the Republicans have no plan to cover the estimated 30 million people in the United States who do not have health insurance. A Republican plan in the House of Representatives would cover an additional 3 million people. As one of the estimated 30 million people without health insurance, as one of the millions with a pre-existing condition, I am interested in affordable health insurance. Coverage is the main issue for me. I confess impatience with pundits who question whether or not it was politically wise for President Obama to take on this issue early. I suspect they all have health insurance. I have no patience and little regard for elected officials who obstruct, delay, and refuse to cooperate to bring health-care reform to this nation, one of the few industrialized nations on earth that does not provide universal health care to its people.
Last year, a Republican Congress member advised his colleagues to work against health-care reform because its defeat would be President Obama's Waterloo. It would be the battle that would break him. A Republican strategist counseled in a memo that to delay health-care reform would kill it -- to the Republicans' political advantage. Clearly, the Republicans want to defeat health-care reform while they have no alternative plan that would get this nation to universal coverage.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.