Monday, March 22, 2010

Healthcare Reform? Yes, we can!

The pundits said health care was dead. I almost believed them, but at zero-hour President Obama stepped in and took the reins, making it possible for our representatives to pass historic legislation that will start to reform the way health care is accessed and delivered in the US over the next few years. The health care reform bill passed with 219 Democratic votes and not a single Republican vote. This legislation is the most revolutionary health care legislation to pass since Medicare started, and the Republicans didn't want any part of it. Even after we were forced to suffer 6+ hrs of political theater dubbed a "health care summit" last month, where President Obama begged GOP leaders to give him any response other than "No.", they still wanted nothing to do with it. To be completely fair, neither did 39 conservative Democrats. But, despite the naysayers, I believe in this bill and I hope you do too. I don't believe in this bill because I think it is perfect. It is far from it. My ideal health care reform is a single payer system—perhaps, Medicare for all. This bill still leaves some 10-15 million folks who may want/need health insurance out. I don't believe in this bill because it is in accordance with my particular moral values. In my opinion, abortion is a private and individual issue. I won't pretend to understand what someone considering abortion for any reason is going through and I won't judge their values. I don't believe in this bill because it's comprehensive, because really, it's mostly a health insurance reform bill, and there are many other facets to the US health care delivery system untouched by this bill. However, it is crucial that we take steps towards fixing our expensive, broken, and unjust system. It is undeniable that skyrocketing health care costs are unsustainable. I believe in this bill because each and every step we can take to ensure and insure the health and wealth of our country, the better off society will be. And the provisions in this bill, which is now set to become law, are a big leap toward making that possible. I believe in this bill because, as Speaker Pelosi said, "all politics is personal." And health care is deeply personal. And this bill reaches Americans on a personal level. This bill does what is right for the American people. Here are some highlights, (see chart below for more details):

  • The vile practice of insurance rescission will end
  • Coverage denial based on pre-existing conditions (which could mean simply being a woman or a senior) will end
  • Annual/lifetime insurance limits will be banned
  • Age of dependency (to remain on parents insurance) will increase to 26
  • 32 million uninsured Americans will gain access to affordable health insurance coverage through purchasing pools that will enable competition and choice
  • Small business will get greater tax breaks on health care insurance
  • $100 billion budget deficit reduction over next 10 years, according to CBO
  • The life of Medicare will be extended by about 10 years

I believe in this bill because I refuse to let fear mongers posing as Tea Party activists tell me that the status quo is just fine. I know from personal experience that the status quo is not fine. I believe in this bill because I want the same benefits that we give our elected officials, our public servants. Why do we, the people, not deserve them too?

There was also a lot of political theater last night. Most of it revolved around Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) who voted No in committee because of his pro-life political stance, but was able to strike a deal with Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to get an Executive Order to ensure that federal funds given shall not be used to cover abortions. This compromise basically got us the votes and may have ended Rep. Stupak's political career. I've griped about Rep. Stupak, but I applaud him for taking a stand. When the Republicans argued for a "motion to recommit", meaning let's just pretend this vote didn't happen, scrap the whole thing, and start over, Rep. Stupak stood before his colleagues, many of which have dogged him for the past several months on both sides of the aisle, and implored them to vote "Nay" on the motion. He hit the nail on the head when he called the motion "disingenuous" and "nothing more than an opportunity to continue to deny more than 30 million Americans health care". Stupak defended his party and asserted, "This motion does not promote life—it is the Democrats who have stood up for the principle of no public funding for abortions. It is Democrats, through the President's Executive Order to ensure the sanctity of life is protected." Now we all may have different, personal ideas about this compromise, but I am grateful for it because it makes the aforementioned list of wins for the people possible and it opens the door for us to go even further in the future. The Republicans say that they couldn't vote for the bill because an Executive Order is not rigid enough—anything a president does by Executive Order, a president can undo by Executive Order. This may be factually true, but it doesn't hold water as a valid argument against the bill. Congress has the power to rescind laws too. With that attitude nothing would ever get done! The Republicans are still using their fear tactics to mislead Americans, acting as if President Obama is just waiting for the bill to reach his desk Tuesday, so he can say "psych, Stupak!" and revoke the order.

I am not afraid. I slept like a baby last night because I honestly can't think of another thing President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders could have done to encourage the GOP to get on board. Did President Obama not answer Republicans concerns about CBO scoring, and other budgetary priorities, like the economy and joblessness when they were asked? Did he not point out time and time again where the Republicans ideas were represented in the final bill? And he just gave them assurance that the government would not fund abortions. That they did not seize the opportunity to present real ideas, instead of just shooting the Democrats down is their fault. I believe that once the smoke clears and the Republicans see that this reform package won't end the world and that health reform does have a place among their top political priorities—I see a link between health care and the economy and health care and jobs creation—that they will be kicking themselves and I'll be shouting, "Yes we can!"

So, tell me--do you believe in this bill? Do you think that this administration's priorities are out of touch with that of the American people? Are the Republicans right, should we be scared of the ramifications of passing this law--other than the Dems losing some seats in the fall?

Effective Date

New Policy

June 2010

  • Americans who have been denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition will be able access to insurance through a temporary “high-risk pool”

September 2010

  • Young adults may remain on their parents’ health insurance until their 26th birthday.
  • Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping an individual’s coverage because they get sick
  • Lifetime limits on covered benefits will be banned
  • Annual limits on covered benefits will be prohibited
  • Preventive care services are provided without cost-sharing for all new insurance plans (will apply to all existing plans by 2018)

January 2011

  • Insurance plans will be required to spend 80 percent (for small/individual plans) or 85 percent (for large group plans) of premiums on medical services; those who fail to do so must submit rebates to consumers

January 2014

  • Medicaid will be expanded to cover every American earning less than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Tax credits for purchasing health insurance will be provided to individuals who lack employer-provided insurance and earn less than 400% of the FPL
  • Denial of health insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions will be banned
  • Insurance companies may not charge older adults any more than three times the insurance premiums of younger adults
  • State insurance exchanges will be established to facilitate market competition and enforce minimum benefit standards
  • Adults under age 30 will have the option of purchasing a low-cost catastrophic health insurance plan

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