) -- Today is an historic Christmas Eve, with the Senate delivering a huge lump of coal to the evil insurance industry.

The Senate's passage of massive health care reform legislation -- in the first Christmas Eve vote since 1895 -- paves the way for a new era of health care in the U.S. that will offer near universal coverage for all Americans.

That sounds wonderful, in keeping with the spirit of the holiday season. But I could do without all the political rhetoric and vilifying of the insurers.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D. -Iowa, called the current private insurance system "a moral disgrace"; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D., RI, said the current insurance business model "deserves a stake through its cold and greedy heart"; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D., Calif., said the industry "lacks a moral compass," according to the

New York Times.

President Barack Obama spoke a little more diplomatically, saying the reforms finally defeat the "special-interest lobbyists who perpetuated a status quo that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people."

There's no question in my mind that our health care system is flawed, but that was the choice our nation made when we embraced a free-market, private insurance system rather than a full-blown publicly funded program.

As a nation, we made the choice to put health insurance in the hands of private enterprises that must balance the risks and the costs in order to remain viable businesses and, in many cases, provide returns for the investors who help to finance their operations.

Whether or not that was the right choice is worthy of debate, but there's no reason to malign the entire health insurance industry and all the hundreds of thousands of employees who work for insurers. They are just doing their jobs.

Yes, it's true that big insurers like





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generate billions of dollars a year in profit. But that's what they are supposed to do; otherwise they would all be in line for the kind of massive taxpayer bailouts that went to the likes of


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Bank of America

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This is no apology for the health insurance industry. I don't agree with all the practices that have evolved over the years, but neither do I think that all health insurers are evil.

As we prepare to try a new approach to health care coverage, it would be nice if we could tone done the vitriol a bit.

This is, after all, the holiday season.

--Written by Glenn Hall in New York with additional reporting by the Associated Press.

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