In these respects, the bill that has passed is a poor one. It is not the ideal of reform that many progressives hope for. It it is not even merely imperfect; there are very serious problems with this health care reform.
Having said that, however, I think that the passage of the health care bill is a cause for celebration. Coverage will be expanded to millions of people who currently lack it, more poor people will be given financial aid to afford health care without spending their last penny, and it will be harder for health insurance companies - at least in most cases - to deny claims and care. This is a foundation we can build upon and a real improvement in our rather cruel and barbaric health care system.
But remember that our celebration must be a qualified one. This is but the first step in health care reform and it is the stumbling of a child who cannot yet really walk on its own. We must continue the fight. In particular we must work to strengthen the regulations on private health insurance companies, find a real mechanism for controlling costs, make it even harder for them to deny claims, and in the end to take the profit motive out of health care all together.
It appears certain that the transition from the cruel for-profit health insurance system that has harmed and taken so many lives to a system of health coverage that really works to heal and help people must, in the United States, be a gradual and incremental one. It is truly a sad thing that the American mindset and political system seems gridlocked into working in this slow and painful manner. Nevertheless such appears to be the case.
Given this American "incrementalism" we can and should be proud of this health care bill as an important first step. But let us not forget that we cannot stop with the first step, we must take the remainder of the steps on the path before us. Let us keep the vision of a truly humane and democratic health care system in our sight and keep on walking toward it.