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March 25, 2010 3:22 am

Time to face reality

Written by Tribune Staff

Health care reform has been signed into law, many Americans are happy about it

President Barack Obama on Tuesday inked his signature on the health care reform bill — widely hailed as the most sweeping legislation since the 1960s.

But the divisive partisanship that has embroiled the country for the past year is far from over, and we're not likely to see the end of it until long after the November elections are in the can.

President Obama and a core group of Democrats pushed the bill through the House of Representatives, upending the fierce bid by Republicans and Tea Party activists, along with a small contingent of Democrats, to kill the bill.

After the vote and the ensuing signing ceremony, politicians on both sides scrambled to deliver their sound bites, while attorneys general from 13 states — and counting — announced plans to sue the federal government based on the belief that requiring all Americans to carry insurance is unconstitutional. However, most experts predict that the effort will fail since the U.S. Constitution specifically states that federal law trumps state laws.

Legislation also is pending in nearly 40 states to exempt citizens from being required to carry health insurance, bringing the scepter of the constitution's supremacy clause to mind again.

Wyoming's congressional delegation is fully aboard the Republican bandwagon. Sen. John Barrasso said of the bill, “the American people are going to suffer as a result of a few people in one room being very, very happy.”

Sen. Mike Enzi said, “I have to tell them (my constituents) that if the Senate bill becomes law, their jobs and their paychecks will be in danger.”

And a statement on Rep. Cynthia Lummis' Web site read, “(Lummis) stood with the overwhelming majority of American people tonight by voting against final passage of the Democrat's $1 trillion job-killing government takeover of the nation's health care system.”

The latest national polls call these comments into question.

A March 22 USA Today/Gallup poll indicates 49 percent of American adults see the bill as a “good thing,” with just 40 percent viewing it as a “bad thing.”

In addition, according to an opinion piece by Washington Post contributer Stanley Greenberg, “Four of the seven major polls showed an increase in the numbers favoring the health care reform ... over the last few weeks. Only one showed it losing ground ... Likewise, the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest poll found that 28 percent of respondents were now ‘strong' supporters, up from 19 percent in January.”

Of course, some polls do show a majority of respondents opposing the reform measures — but the mixed numbers indicate that the real answer is far less clear-cut than health care reform opponents claim.

And the contention that the reform will bankrupt the U.S.? The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill will reduce the national deficit by $138 billion over the next decade.

There's little doubt the bill is imperfect — the cost, the threat of increased taxes and basic logistics of the plan are big issues that need to be sorted out along the way. But, according to the USA Today/Gallup poll, 48 percent of respondents view it as “a good first step.”

Insuring people with pre-existing conditions, preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to sick people or to children with pre-existing conditions, letting young people stay on their parents' insurance until they turn 26 — all are parts of a step that needed to be taken.

Despite partisan claims to the contrary, many people are pleased with the outcome.