It’s been a historic night. Now, the real work begins. But here’s a few thoughts, and then more after some sleep.
For the cause of major health reform and coverage expansions, the election of President-elect Barack Obama makes me very hopeful:
1) He and Senator Biden endorsed the Health Care for America Now! principles, in support of a guarantee of quality affordable health coverage, and against leaving consumers alone at the mercy of private health insurers. Along with over 125 members of Congress, he has committed to make health reform a top priority, and under the right principles.
2) He put his money where his mouth is, spending over $110 million of his campaign resources on advertisements around health care issues. When voters gave him this mandate, they did so partially because they support health reform, and the type that Obama was talking about.
3) Health care is so important to consumers that any major change in our health system requires a certain level of trust that reform is possible, and positive. In a post-Katrina world, Obama’s core message, against cynicism and the appeal that we all have a shared future, together, is as important for the cause of health reform as any policy detail.
4) The increased margins of his party in the House and Senate will help. So will his impressive showing in previous “red” states, giving him strength and leverage with moderate Democrats and Republicans. For example, he won Iowa easily and came excruciatingly close in Montana–the home states of the two leaders of the Senate Finance Committee (Grassley and Baucus)–perhaps the most important hurdle for health reform in the legislative process. He can use his mandate for health reform in those states.
5) Finally, we now have the ability to pursue reform not just at the state, but federal level. And for those of us committed to state-level reforms, it looks like we will have a partner, rather than an obstacle, at the federal level.
Also, FYI, in other good news, Arizona narrowly defeated Prop 101 (50-50, by only a few thousand votes) the anti-universal health care intiative, that would have prohibited health reforms like that of Obama, Schwarzenegger-Nunez, or single-payer. But that’s too close.