As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Value Of Leadership

Turning to a positive portrait of the candidates after that bit of negativity, it struck me that a couple of the newer themes that both candidates used on Thursday night at the debate have the potential to move the national conversation on those matters.

Hillary Clinton talked very strongly about eliminating the pre-existing condition requirement from the health insurance industry, in a new way. She said, "how is it unconstitutional for us to discriminate against Americans on the basis of race, sex or gender, but it's OK to discriminate against the sick?" I had never heard it put in those terms before, but it's surely a lot more powerful than the wonky term "guaranteed issue." Sure enough, Rep. Steve Kagen, (D-WI), himself a doctor, is sponsoring a bill called the "No Discrimination in Health Insurance Act."

This essential legislation will guarantee access to affordable care for every citizen in America by bringing an end to discriminatory practices employed by insurance companies who deny life-saving coverage to millions of Americans solely because of their pre-existing medical conditions.

The grim reality is our Constitution does protect you against discrimination, until you become ill. Well, my legislation puts discrimination where it belongs -- in the past.

Ending all forms of discrimination is essential, but it's also time we pull back the veil of secrecy and inject transparency into our health care marketplace. Shouldn't health insurance companies be made to openly disclose all their prices, so everyone sees the lowest price for insurance policies? Like prices for gas at the corner service station or food prices in your closest grocery store, every citizen should have the equal opportunity to pay the same price for the same product. It's called competition -- a uniquely American concept.

Go to your favorite restaurant and you'll find a simple solution for solving our health care crisis. They'll hand you a menu with a list of prices before you order.

This is just common sense, and when framed this way it's very hard to refute other than falling back on some kind of "socialized medicine" nonsense. Recission, the practice of retroactively cancelling policyholders, is not something that has a constituency. The $9 million dollar award to a female cancer patient who suffered from recission may put an end to the policy all by itself. But framing this as a rights and discrimination issue is absolutely the way to go. And Clinton's leadership in putting that perspective on display at the highest level makes it easier for people like Kagen to put forward this bill. For his part, a central part of Obama's health care plan, allowing children up to the age of 25 to be covered on their parent's plan, is being picked up by a number of different states.

In addition, Obama showed some leadership in boldly stating what we all know about Cuba policy.

And it's absolutely true that I think our policy has been a failure. I mean, the fact is, is that during my entire lifetime, and Senator Clinton's entire lifetime, you essentially have seen a Cuba that has been isolated, but has not made progress when it comes to the issues of political rights and personal freedoms that are so important to the people of Cuba.

Donna Edwards was on Hardball this week and basically said the same thing.

If there's anything to be gained by this slightly extended primary season, it's that liberal and progressive ideas will be pushed more and more into the mainstream as the media focuses on Sens. Clinton and Obama. I'm worried that will come to an end in a series of divisive attacks at the debate on Tuesday. But so far, the net effect has been positive. And considering that negative attacks have become progressively less effective throughout this campaign season, I think that dynamic will remain.

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