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Healthcare Legislation and its Implications for the Environment

What will  health care reform mean for climate and energy legislation?President Obama was elected on a platform that promised health care and renewable energy. Despite the Republicans’ best efforts to misinform, derail and delay, the President was able to deliver on the first of these two promises. On Sunday March 21, by a vote of 219 to 212, the House approved the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, the President signed the bill into law.

This is one of the most important pieces of American legislation in more than 40 years. The legislation will give 32 million Americans access to health care while saving over $1 trillion and providing millions of jobs. Small businesses will receive tax credits to help pay for mounting insurance costs.

The legislation also reduces fraud and waste in Medicare and pre-existing conditions will no longer be grounds for insurance companies to deny coverage to millions of Americans.

Despite the momentous victory for the American people, the fight over health care has ominous implications for climate change legislation. We can expect more misinformation and the same obstructionist tactics from Republicans and special interests on the environment.

Those who think they can continue to foil honest efforts to improve America without consequences are sadly and dangerously mistaken. This legislation is a clarion call for the armies of lobbyists who have far too often dictated legislation. Although President Obama’s popularity has declined, according to a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll, 80 percent of Americans think Washington is broken, the majority of which blame Republicans.

Republican resistance to climate change may have dire consequences for the environment and the American economy. Besides compromising America’s competitive positioning in cleantech and renewables, Republican resistance to clean energy legislation will further polarize Americans.

Environmental degradation is already taking its toll and rising frustrations could enfranchise radical views. On March 9, an environmental group known as Friends of the Earth weighed in on the health care debate by participating in a march for health care reform in Washington, DC. Although their support for the environment is unequivocal, their anger and frustration has also led them to some extreme positions including opposition to free markets.

Special interests tried to hijack the health care debate with a well rehearsed strategy of misinformation and the same can be expected for climate change legislation. However, businesses on the wrong side of this issue risk alienating consumers, and politicians are risking their political futures.

Despite the vitriol from those opposed health care, once the dust settles, it may be the Republicans who fail to find favor with American voters. Americans may not abide the cabal of special interests and Republicans who tried to sabotage health care reform.

Republican fear mongering did not dissuade Democrats from succeeding where many before them have failed. Through inspired leadership, America has made a bold step forward.??

This is the face of Change” President Obama said late Sunday night, “We did not fear our future we shaped it.”

Perhaps the passage of health care legislation will inspire Americans to support the change they voted for.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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