The greater good - Joel Hall

On Saturday night, while many Americans were out on the town, or watching "Project Runway" on the Bravo network, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, perhaps, the most significant piece of legislation to come out of government since the introduction of Medicare.

With a majority of only five votes, the House passed the Democratic solution to America's health-care crisis, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (formerly known as House Resolution 3962).

There is no mistake that something needed to be done. Ever since the Civil Rights movement and the passage of Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" legislation, health-care inequality has stood out as one of America's most important, unsolved issues. The lack of access to affordable health care has created disturbing health disparities, particularly in minority communities, where the life expectancy of individuals generally is lower than for the rest of the public.

However, the way in which the bill was passed -- in the late hours of Saturday with only one vote of Republican support -- is a symptom of a growing political divide, and the increasing inability of leaders on the Left and the Right to come together on matters of great importance. Unable to agree on a unified health-care solution, the House Democrats pushed through a bill, much lacking in Republican input, which may very well be shut down by Senate Republicans, out of spite.

It is easy to ignore GOP ideas, and brand all Republicans as anti-government, altruism-hating individuals, who go around smacking the change out of homeless peoples' coffee cups with copies of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." It is also easy to ignore Democrats, and brand them as hammer-and-sickle-waiving Bolsheviks, who would rather see us harvesting wheat to the tune of Communist marches than enjoying our piece of the American dream.

Perhaps, I believe too much in the good intentions of people, but I, at least, want to believe that both Democrats and Republicans are looking for a health-care solution that will benefit all Americans, regardless of their age, race, gender, or earning potential. If people can put egos and personal ideologies aside, I believe there is a way to effect significant health-care change that both Republicans and Democrats can be happy with.

Most Republicans strongly disagree with the idea of a "public option," or rather a government-run alternative to private health-care insurers. Senator Olympia Snow (R-Wash.) has suggested a "trigger option" in the Senate's version of the health-care bill, in which a public option could be implemented, if other measures, such as cross-state competition and tort reform, don't create the desired cost savings.

The House version of the health-care bill currently includes rules that would ban health-care companies from denying the sick and old insurance for any reason other than fraud. If both parties can approach health care as a human-rights issue, Republicans and Democrats can find ways to craft legislation that will give both sides greater peace of mind.

When reacting to a warning from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele that the GOP would "come after" Republican members of Congress who voted in favor of House Resolution 3962, Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-La.), the lone Republican to vote in favor of the bill, said he would make "the proper decision for my district even though it was not the popular decision for my party."

As this bill goes on to the Senate, I hope other lawmakers will take the same approach, rather than destroy something with the potential to do so much good for so many.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.