The Senate's early Christmas Eve vote on healthcare reform was another step in this slow, but necessary and overdue process.
Although some folks disagree, I welcome this as tangible progress addressing an long-standing issue of great importance to millions of Americans, and therefore clearly a reason to rejoice.
But, more hurdles must be overcome before any of the anticipated benefits are manifested.
The Senate and House bills must be reconciled and the all-important final approving votes cast, before the measure can be sent to the President for his signature.
Then, the real work begins of explaining and implementing the changes over time.
Will this measure address all the identified problems to every one's satisfaction?
Of course not, but it is the best that could be agreed upon for now.
As likely improvements are proposed and defects are discovered, these will provide valuable impetus for further refinements.
Often, initial progress on an issue is the hardest part, and the difficulty witnessed during this year's debate certainly fits that profile.
But, like it or not, adversarial debate is the primary method by which this country changes its policies and regulations.
And, despite all the vitriol, posturing rhetoric and costly lobbying, a majority -actually a super majority- of our elected Congressional representatives have supported the respective House and Senate bills now awaiting melding into a single bill that both bodies can approve.
The process has been anything but pretty to watch, fueled by unusually nasty partisan politics, ideological arguments and outrageous claims and speculation.
But, this issue is one that our President prioritized during the past election, so its debate should been no surprise.
What was a surprise -at least to me- was the partisan ferocity exhibited by those calling themselves 'conservatives', who seized upon this issue as a way to stir up public anger and frustration to help sway voters during next year's elections.
That kind of mindset and motivation has become all too prevalent lately.
While elected members of Congress do represent different constituencies, they also share the responsibility for representing all Americans and what is in the best interest of our Country as a whole.
To achieve that goal, some degree of true bipartisanship is necessary to forge workable compromises.
I find it very hard to accept that there were NO Republican Senators willing to demonstrate the caring and courage to vote their conscience instead of political party line!
The three main elements of any healthcare reform are ACCESS, COSTS and QUALITY, with their priorities in the same order.
Who really believes its not important to make some level of healthcare access to over 30 million citizens who don't have it?
Whose interests are served by continuing to ignore this situation and deny no reform is necessary?
And, who doubts that healthcare cost effectiveness can be dramatically improved by more competition, less paper shuffling and less reliance on for-profit healthcare providers?
You know, government run healthcare in this Country is pretty well administered; just think of MediCare and the Veterans Administration.
I have had MediCare as my primary health insurance for the last 2 years and find it remarkably good and easy to use, despite my earlier, uninformed doubts.
As far as healthcare quality is concerned, that is generally considered pretty good.
But, as healthcare expands to cover millions of new people, more doctors, nurses and technicians will certainly need to be trained and qualified.
Perhaps equally important is the emphasis on healthy diets and habits and wellness programs which can help prevent many illnesses and disabilities before they become major health problems.
While there will remain healthcare gaps, inequalities, financing difficulties and new methods of providing timely care, I believe the first step now being taken, is a step in the right direction.
And, it is something for which most Americans can rejoice during this Christmas season!