Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bill Moyers Journal: John Nichols & Terry O'Neill on Health Care Reform

John Nichols & Terry O'Neill on Health Care Reform
Bill Moyers Journal

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is now law — but the battle over health care reform is far from over. Already at least 14 state attorneys general have filed lawsuits in state courts charging that the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance is unconstitutional. The Republican Party has vowed to make health care reform the central issue in their bid to gain Democratic seats in the mid-term elections. Stalwart advocates of a single-payer system are also unhappy with the outcome — calling the bill "a false promise of reform" and "wimpy."

John Nichols of THE NATION and Terry O'Neill of the National Organization of Women (NOW), have looked over the final legislation and made their assessments. Nichols suggests that while the act is deeply flawed, it has moved the national conversation to a new, more positive, place. No longer is there a question about whether to reform health care, but how to reform it — and it is very difficult, notes Nichols, to move backward along that path:

For 100 years...we tried to take this vacant site and dig a hole, put a foundation, and start some construction. That's what's happened. The fact of the matter is it's best to understand the health care legislation that was passed on Sunday as the beginning of a construction project. And that's why some people fought so hard against it, because they understood. Once you begin that project, it is very unlikely that we're going to fill the hole in, tear down all the construction.

Terry O'Neill is not as sanguine: "My organization looked at the entire bill at the end of the day when it was passed. And we concluded that on balance, despite the good things that are in the bill, the bill actually is bad for women." As part of a deal to win pro-life Democratic votes, President Obama signed an Executive Order which "requires adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services." According to O'Neill and other pro-choice groups, it is, in fact, an extension of the Hyde Amendment (which originally only applied to Medicaid funds) and "A Tragic Setback for Women's Rights."

But the blanket restriction on use the federal funds for abortion services is not the only problem O'Neill sees with the bill. She notes that it also does not ameliorate gender and age bias in insurance coverage and delivers 32 million new customers to the insurance industry.

John Nichols

John Nichols, author and political journalist has been writing the "Online Beat" for THE NATION magazine since 1999. Nichols also serves as Washington correspondent for THE NATION, as well as the associate editor of the CAPITAL TIMES, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin and a contributing writer for THE PROGRESSIVE and IN THESE TIMES.

Along with fellow author Robert McChesney, Nichols co-founded the media-reform group Free Press. Nichols has also authored several books, including JEWS FOR BUCHANAN, which analyzed the recount vote of 2000, and DICK: THE MAN WHO IS PRESIDENT, his best-selling biography of Vice President Dick Cheney. Nichols most recent book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT, argues that impeachment is an essential instrument of America's democratic system.

Terry O'Neill

Terry O'Neill, a feminist attorney, professor and activist for social justice, was elected president of NOW in June 2009. She is also president of the NOW Foundation and chair of the NOW Political Action Committees, and serves as the principal spokesperson for all three entities.

A former law professor, O'Neill taught at Tulane in New Orleans and at the University of California at Davis, where her courses included feminist legal theory and international women's rights law, in addition to corporate law and legal ethics. She has testified before committees in the Maryland House of Delegates and has written federal amicus briefs on abortion rights for Louisiana NOW, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.

O'Neill worked on such historic campaigns as Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and the campaign leading to the election of Louisiana's first woman U.S. senator, Mary Landrieu.

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