The Obama Administration finally got what it has been fighting for this past year: Comprehensive health care reform for America.
The process that played out on everyone's television screens was perhaps one of the ugliest spectacles since Anna Nicole's death back in 2007. America's punditry class successfully turned the event into another election style death race with 'experts' predicting everything from Stalinesque death panels to the end of Obama's Presidency.
The actual reform package (which virtually every main stream media outlet ignored) is extremely moderate and certainly deserves a lot of criticism. It does nothing to reign in the insurance industry's grip on health care and directly takes tax payers money and gives it to the same people who have spent the past several decades trying to deny people basic coverage.
However, it does accomplish several very progressive goals and is is a very sure step in the right direction. Firstly, it has shown that the US government still can play a serious role in regulating private industry - and the impact of this cannot be underestimated. The prevailing economic theory for the past 30 years has been that government can do no good and private industry must be left alone to work its magic. The theory has proved to be hogwash given the failure of private industry to a) provide everyone health care b) keep costs down and c) keep America globally competitive when it comes to health care outcomes.
A properly regulated health insurance industry means the self interested corporations will no longer be able to deny coverage for pre existing conditions, raise rates arbitrarily or impose caps on coverage. This is a big victory for the notion that government can work for its people and a very welcome one.
Secondly, it means that millions of poor people will gain access to affordable health care. Regardless of whether the insurance is administered by government or private industry, these people will now have a chance of living normal, healthy lives without the fear of going broke should they become sick.
Thirdly, it builds a framework that allows for greater change down the road. Once people start to see the benefits of a properly regulated industry, there will no doubt calls for more of the same. And as some commentators have pointed out, there's a good chance the Democrats will push again for a public option.
The passage of health care will be an enormous boost for Obama who staked a lot of his credibility on passing health care early on in his Presidency. However ugly it was, he got it done against one of the most vicious assaults in political history. The Republicans, corporate media and the insurance industry waged an all out war against the President, and while they did manage to kill off some very important aspects of reform, they lost the war of attrition and were finally trumped by Obama's legendary calm and cunning.
Let's just hope the victory can be replicated elsewhere, and if possible, without the unnecessary talk of bipartisanship.