Posted by: JanF | November 29, 2013

Thankful for Progress

Yesterday, ThinkProgress posted “ThankProgress: 9 Things Progressives Can Be Thankful For“, a list of things that we made progress on over this past year.

Here is their list (click the link for details):
1. States are enacting protections for undocumented immigrants.
2. Same-sex couples have more access to marriage benefits than ever before.
3. More workers are getting raises and taking sick leave.
4. Uninsured Americans are signing up for health insurance.
5. The U.S. is taking steps to address the consequences of climate change.
6. States are enacting prison reform.
7. College activists across the country are fighting back against rape culture.
8. Solar power is on the rise and prices keep dropping.
9. Number of homeless Americans on the decline.

When you look at that list, you could just as easily say “but … but … we didn’t get it all!!!”. And you would be right … we didn’t get it all … but we did make progress.

Sometimes progressives forget that progress often means three steps forward and two steps back. Being pragmatic about progress means recognizing that our progress can sometimes be in steps so tiny that they do not look like forward progress at all.

And sometimes it just hits you like a two-by-four: “Holy Mackeral, look at the progress we just made!”.

As pragmatic progressives found out during the Health Care debate, calls for an incremental approach that at least had some chance of passing were often drowned out by the screams for purity:

The Frustrated Ones saw the failure of single payer as a personal failure by President Obama. The argument was that he should have just “given us” single payer and staked his presidency on it. In reality, it could never have passed the 111th Congress.

I suspect that if these folks had seen the original Social Security Act or the original Medicare Act or the original Voters Rights Act or any of the “foot in the door” pieces of legislation that were passed from 1932 through 1968, they would have hated those as well. To them, “foot in the door” is caving. If the door cannot be opened all the way, then it should be slammed shut. That reasoning is short-sighted and bad for our country.

The Affordable Care Act was passed and signed into law in March 2010. To call it imperfect would be charitable, but it was the best we could get with the Congress we had given the need to provide a solution that did not destroy the trillion-dollar private health insurance industry.

Today we are just a little over a month away from the final rollout of the ACA and all the protections it provides. These things are substantial progress:

– Ends Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions for Children: Health plans can no longer limit or deny benefits to children under 19 due to a pre-existing condition.
– Keeps Young Adults Covered: If you are under 26, you may be eligible to be covered under your parent’s health plan.
– Ends Arbitrary Withdrawals of Insurance Coverage: Insurers can no longer cancel your coverage just because you made an honest mistake.
– Guarantees Your Right to Appeal: You now have the right to ask that your plan reconsider its denial of payment.

– Ends Lifetime Limits on Coverage: Lifetime limits on most benefits are banned for all new health insurance plans.
– Reviews Premium Increases: Insurance companies must now publicly justify any unreasonable rate hikes.
– Helps You Get the Most from Your Premium Dollars: Your premium dollars must be spent primarily on health care – not administrative costs.

– Covers Preventive Care at No Cost to You: You may be eligible for recommended preventive health services. No copayment.
– Protects Your Choice of Doctors: Choose the primary care doctor you want from your plan’s network.
– Removes Insurance Company Barriers to Emergency Services: You can seek emergency care at a hospital outside of your health plan’s network.

So when you hear screams for purity, from either the right or the left, remember this: “the perfect is the enemy of ‘the good'” is not just a trite phrase. It means that we should accept progress, even a little progress, and work to take the next steps to make it “the better” and then “the best”.

That’s progress.



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