On Writing My Congressman

The text of an e-mail I just sent to Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger:

Dear Representative Ruppersberger,

Like many Americans, I have been following the health care debate the past year. I believe that the health care system we have is broken and badly in need of repair. I find it appalling that in this, one of the richest nations in the world, one in seven Americans lacks access to health care because they cannot afford coverage, thus facing financial ruin at any time with any medical problem.

Last night, Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to the United States Senate. I have seen many commentators in the media and online note that this means that health care reform is a dead issue, that the Senate cannot pass a health care bill because the Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof majority.

Yet, this meme misses a crucial point. Yes, it is absolutely true that a Conference Report may not surpass a Republican filibuster attempt in the Senate. But, it’s also true that the Senate has passed a bill and that the House of Representatives can take up that bill, pass it unchanged, and send it to the President’s desk.

Is the Senate bill perfect? Frankly, it is not. I consider myself a progressive (and a progressive Republican at that), and I wish that the bill had a public option or a Medicare buy-in because these would offer consumers choice and help hold costs down. However, the Senate bill does do a variety of important things, like holding the insurance companies accountable, ending the bias against pre-existing conditions, and ending the deplorable practice of rescission. It is not perfect, no, but it is a start. Social Security was not born in its entirety in a single bill. Medicare was not created by a single bill. The Civil Rights Acts were the result of a long process and not a single bill. Going by historical precedent, health care reform will not be the result of a single bill. The Senate bill can start the country down the road toward real reform, and it is possible that some of the more progressive ideas, such as Medicare buy-ins and the public option, could be passed in this Congress, in this Senate through budget reconciliation rules that would not be subject to Republican filibusters.

The cost of inaction and allowing health care reform to die because the Senate no longer has a filibuster-proof Democratic majority is too great. The perception that health care is too big an issue, the perception that Democrats are too fractious to govern, these will both become entrenched.

I ask you, Congressman Ruppersberger, to support the Senate bill. As a writer, I know that words cannot be edited if they don’t exist on the page. As a watcher of politics, I also know that a law cannot be improved if it doesn’t exist. It is not an ideal bill, but it is a bill that the Senate has passed, and it can be improved over time.

Thank you for your time.

Allyn Gibson

Write your Congressman if you care about the passage of health care reform. Yes, we need leadership from the President, some Congressmen are already feeling shaky on the issue, but there is time to salvage this if the political will is there.

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