Reform needs bipartisanship

Published 1:53 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

By Staff
Kerry Whipple Bean
On a recent Saturday, I wound up in the emergency room — like so many parents — with a sick child. He had all the symptoms of the flu, so I figured an ER trip would be better than waiting to see his doctor Monday.
He received wonderful care, as I knew he would, and we went home with a prescription for Tamiflu.
After paying the co-pays for the visit and the medicine, I was out $300.
I have insurance. I have good health insurance. And I’m lucky that my family could afford to pay those bills.
High co-pays for an ER visit are designed to discourage us from using the emergency room for basic medical care — but sometimes, you simply can’t avoid the trip.
I spent the rest of the weekend nursing my son back to health and wondering how many children — and adults — avoid medical care altogether because they cannot afford it.
All summer long we’ve seen an angry debate over health care reform. Our senators and congressional representatives who have held town halls and forums have been bombarded with questions and comments about the bills being debated.
I was glad to see, when Jo Bonner came to Brewton a couple of weeks ago, that he had some good ideas about how to make health care available and more affordable for more people. He suggested tax credits for individuals, not just businesses, and using association memberships — such as Rotary — as a way to pool more people together to share the risk for plans outside the workplace.
Both sides of this issue have good ideas about how to lower the cost of health care. If you read the legislation instead of listening to the angry rhetoric about non-existent “death panels,” you will see that there are some valid programs proposed.
The problem is that neither side is listening to the other. I’ve heard people say you can’t solve the health care crisis in one summer. That’s true, but these bills — and ideas like Bonner’s — are not the result of a few months of work.
Lowering the cost of health care and making it accessible to more people has been a dream for decades, and we have already reached some milestones. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, for example, is a huge relief for middle-class families who before would have fallen through the cracks.
But CHIP, as it is known, was the result of a bi-partisan effort, championed by Democrat Ted Kennedy and Republican Orrin Hatch.
Kennedy called health care reform “the cause of his life.” Though he was known as the “liberal lion,” he knew how to cross the aisle and work with the other side to get things done. His decades of service in the Senate taught him that passing legislation is about running a marathon, not a sprint.
Some have said they think Kennedy’s death last week will be a rallying cry for Democrats to pass the health care reform legislation without any support from Republicans.
But it would be a disservice to Kennedy’s legacy to pass health care reform legislation that not only does little to lower the cost of health care and health insurance but also does not include ideas — good ideas — from both sides of the aisle.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at

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