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Heaven can wait: The health-care edition

By Matt Miller
Wednesday, March 10, 2010;

Somewhere above

God: This is highly unusual. We've granted requests for unfinished business with a loved one. But we've never sent someone back for a last political ad.

Ted Kennedy: Please, Lord. I worked this issue for decades. You yourself said it's what got me in here. It was a fluke that I couldn't see it through. Now it's down to the wire, and they're not making the case.

God: Okay. But you'll have time for only one take.

TK: I'll take it! Paul, is the prompter loaded?

Paul Wellstone: All set. Give 'em hell, Teddy!

TK winks, turns to camera

My fellow Americans, don't be scared -- this is Ted Kennedy with a final word about health-care reform. I know you're anxious about the economy and jobs. Some of you wonder why the president has made health security a priority and what his plan would mean for your family. You've also heard misleading attacks from Republicans, who want to scare you so they can win back power. It's hard to know whom to trust today -- both political parties have lost credibility. But take it from someone with nothing left to lose, or to win: You're about to make a defining choice. Either you take a huge step forward on an issue that has vexed America for decades, or you let another chance slip and leave this problem to fester for 20 more years before a president summons the courage to try again.

When you cut through all the hype and hysteria, here's what's true: The president's plan will provide health security to every American family, using good ideas from both political parties, at a price the nation can afford. It deserves your support.

In a global high-tech economy, even after a recession has passed, none of you can be sure that your job or your job-based health coverage is safe. Government can't protect you from every risk. But government can protect Americans against some risks that really matter. If the president's plan passes, and you lose a job where you get health care, or lose your coverage from any source, you'll be guaranteed access, for the first time, to affordable group coverage in a local insurance exchange. The United States is the only rich nation that doesn't already make such coverage available outside the job setting. What's more, if the president's plan passes, no one in your family, or in any American family, will ever again be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. And no American will ever again go bankrupt from medical bills -- a fate that befalls millions today. These protections will bring peace of mind in an uncertain world.

I wish Republicans had joined the president to put them in place. If I'd still been around, I think I could have helped make that happen. But here's what you need to know. The president's plan is modeled on the plan Republican Mitt Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts, with my support. It's based on ideas that Republican and Democratic experts have been refining for 15 years. Only in America could Barack Obama push Romney's health plan and be called a "socialist." Just because Republicans have decided they'd rather not vote for their own principles when they're advanced by a Democratic president doesn't mean their ideas aren't there. They are.

To my liberal friends who say that using private insurers to expand coverage means that billions will get diverted to middlemen and marketing, I say: Look at it as a jobs program, and you'll learn to love it!

The president's plan costs less than a penny on the national dollar. Some say we should cut the spiraling costs of the system before we invest that new penny. If you think your family will never be vulnerable to losing coverage or be unable to get it in the first place, then maybe you can afford to wait. But if you think your family could use a little insurance against that possibility -- or that your country should offer some protection against such devastation for your countrymen -- then it should strike you as a penny well spent.

The president's plan isn't perfect. No legislation is. But it's a start. The reforms the president seeks would make us a different, and better, country. And by making progress on one major issue, America would gain the confidence to make progress on others.

Director yells "cut"

TK: How'd it sound?

God: Not bad. But not as soaring as I expected.

TK: Tougher without Shrum up here.

God: Where you off to?

TK: Meeting Russert and Moynihan at the bar to watch the votes.

Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-host of public radio's "Left, Right & Center," writes a weekly column for The Post. He can be reached at mattino2@gmail.com.

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