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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/7/12

Wayne Madsen: Democrats had to act, but they erred by not passing a single-payer plan

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U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat, has been right on many things during his 32 years as a champion of the underdog in the House of Representatives, but he was dead wrong when he recently remarked that Democrats acted precipitously by rushing health-care reform into law at the start of President Barack Obama's first term.

The remark has angered many congressional Democrats, some of whom wasted no time in suggesting that Frank's gargantuan-sized ego had been bruised by the fact that his party sidetracked his sweeping financial services reform bill to pass the unwieldy and widely unpopular ObamaCare.

Unfortunately, Frank, who is retiring at the end of the year, fails to recognize the realities his party faced at the start of 2009.

With dominant majorities on Capitol Hill and a promising new president in the White House, the Democrats had little choice but to "seize the day" and pass the bill that would become the signature legislative achievement of Obama's first term.

In doing so, however, their Congressional leaders lost their nerve -- failing to realize they and they alone held the upper hand.

Instead of passing a simple and straight-forward single-payer health care law, they decided to further load the deck by offering juicy incentives to Big Pharma and Big Insurance in the form of an additional 19 million new customers.

As a result, they produced a dysfunctional bill of more 2,700 pages weighed down with hundreds of often conflicting requirements -- a veritable "dungeons and dragons" labyrinth where untold dangers lurk behind every turn.

Passage of a single-payer -- already working well in Canada, across much of Europe and in most other advanced countries -- finally would have brought 21st century medical care to the United States.

That would have eliminated the costly tons of paperwork and volumes of confusing rules that now befuddle -- and all too often bankrupt -- Americans in need of quality care delivered in plain Anglo-Saxon English.

Sadly, then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., simply lost their nerve and ignored the advice of such experienced legislators as Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash., -- trading principle and practicality for the prospect of campaign contributions from the likes of Pfizer, Humana, Cigna and United Health Care.

Democrats as a whole would have been better off if they had taken the advice of legendary Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plunkitt, and indulged in a little honest graft, once described by Plunkitt as pursuing "the interests of one's party, one's state, and one's personal interests all together."

Still, Barney Frank is blatantly wrong in his assertion that the Democrats should have waited before passing a major health-care reform package.

Such legislation was vitally needed at a time when many millions of Americans were without health coverage and many millions more drastically undercovered and vulnerable to continual rounds of soaring costs.

Ironically, the Supreme Court likely would do Democrats a favor at the polls in November, if -- as expected -- they strike down the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, thus pulling the bottom card from Reid and Pelosi's hastily constructed "house of cards."

If that happens, the progressive forces that now constitute a majority of Democratic congressional candidates could seize the day and run on a platform making "single-payer health care legislation" their top priority.

Such a move would instantly undermine the fear-mongering by "know-nothing" Tea Partiers and could well attract more than a modicum of support from independents, moderate Republicans and even some traditional conservatives, who would like to get the contentious issue off the table and move on with more pressing issues.

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