Nearly one year after passing sweeping changes to the nation’s health care laws, one of its biggest boosters was getting philosophical about the matter.
“Health care is a little bit like Buddhism,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner, “we know its going to change we just don’t know how its going to change. We were on a path for the last four years of kind of letting it change by itself, and finally last year we said we cant keep going like this.”
Weiner, who unsuccessfully, but loudly, advocated for a single-payer provision for the law, was speaking at a breakfast hosted by a non-profit called Small Business Majority, a group founded by small business owners nationwide, set to mark the anniversary of the legislation’s passage in Washington.
The criticism that the government is forcing people to buy insurance is moot, according to Weiner.
“The experience that we saw in RomneyCare in Massachusetts was actually that people, when incentivized to get it, want to get it,” he said.
“What we did was something that was ultimately good for the country and particularly good for New York,” said Weiner, as a few dozen business leaders munched on their breakfast. “We’re a healthcare economy we’ve lost 17 hospitals in New York City since the year 2000 because of the inextricable math of more people being uninsured.”
Rima Cohen, an advisor from the Department of Health and Human Services, also spoke at the breakfast, and said the government is actively trying to implement the bill, despite ongoing litigation to declare it unconstitutional, and congressional efforts to defund it.
“[W]e just keep going on and trying to get the benefit out there to people,” said Cohen.
Cohen said some of the tax benefits that could help small business owners go into affect this April because the bill was passed in 2010, (more tax benefits go into effect in 2014).
The legislation was a big deal when it was signed by President Obama, but quickly became a rallying point for Republicans in the 2010 elections, who said it was an example of big, expensive government intruding on individual’s freedom. During the mid-term elections, many Democrats were weary of touting the legislation as a major achievement, leaving the door open, for some, to keep debating the merits of the bill.
Weiner, for his part, joked at the breakfast that the health care debate had taken a toll on him, physically.
“When we started debating healthcare, I was 6’4”, 290 (pounds). This,” the rail-thin congressman said, “is all that’s left.”