Barack Obama called the health bill approved by the Senate finance committee last week a “critical milestone”. So it is. Despite its flaws, many remaining uncertainties, and some difficult consequences should it become law, the bill is a breakthrough.
Nobody actually likes the measure. A muddle of awkward compromises, it has something to offend everyone. The full Senate will modify it, and eventually both houses of Congress must pass the same bill. So the plan will change again, and might collapse altogether. Yet this is the furthest a bill to guarantee access to health insurance in the US has ever come. The committee’s vote shows that this reform is feasible. An entitlement that other rich countries have long taken for granted is finally within reach.
The charge that the president is all talk and no action has lately begun to stick. It will sound hollow if he signs a bill assuring near-universal access to health insurance – an aim that Democrats have pursued fruitlessly for years. If this bill or something like it becomes law, Mr Obama’s prospects will revive, and he will have an indelible achievement to his name.
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