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Debating the Health Care Bill

I had a friend visiting me this weekend who had fervently backed Barack Obama for President (against the “devil-woman” Hillary), but who now thinks Obama has betrayed his followers – most recently by agreeing to disastrous compromises in the health insurance bill. We argued the point on Sunday morning, while reading reports of the passage of the House bill.

I told my friend that some of the most important features of bill were overlooked because they were so obvious – for instance, the ban on insurance companies denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. My friend, who has insurance with his job, responded, “Does that really happen?” I told him that it does indeed -- that our youngest and perfectly healthy daughter, when she had gotten too old for our insurance policy, had been denied coverage by an insurer in San Francisco because she had taken an anti-depressant drug six months before.

And in discussing the House leadership’s concession on abortion, I pointed my friend, who compares Obama unfavorably to Franklin Roosevelt, to what actually happened to the Social Security Act of 1935. That act, when it passed, was a bare shell of what it became in the 1950s after amendment. Benefits were nugatory. And most important, coverage was denied to wide swaths of the workforce, including farm laborers.

Why farm laborers? Well, because Franklin Roosevelt and liberal Democrats needed the vote of racist Southern Democrats who wanted to deny benefits to blacks, most of whom were farm laborers. Yes, the anti-abortion provision in the House bill is very bad (subjecting the poor, but not the rest of us, to the strictures of conservative Catholics and Southern Baptists), but it will at some point (one hopes) be removed. In fact, the bill that the House passed last Saturday is considerably more robust that the original Social Security bill. But don’t tell my friend that.