Shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over the passage of the Health Reform Bill in the House of Representatives on Nov. 7, she called it a “tremendous political victory.”
Nevertheless, with unemployment reaching 10.2 percent, and the Senate voicing enormous opposition to it, one can hardly see a reason for celebration.
Although, Pelosi wants to focus on the 220 House members who supported the bill, the numbers she should really focus on are the aforementioned 10.2 percent, the 60 Senate votes that are becoming less likely to obtain by the day, and 48 days, the time remaining for the president to sign a bill this year.
If the health care overhaul is not signed before we ring in the new year, it will die next year, as will the president’s credibility and his party’s chances of weathering the anti-incumbent storm in 2010.
It has to be done now.
But with Joe Lieberman planning to help filibuster any bill with a public option and many Democrats worried about the House bill’s $1.4-trillion price tag, the bill will be a tough sell in the Senate.
Republicans, including RNC Chairman Michael Steele, continue to label the bill a “government takeover of health care,” adding that it will eventually “bankrupt the country.” The always quirky Lindsay Graham added that the bill was “D.O.A.”
There are aspects of the House bill that I like, but it is far from the change I expected when President Obama was first elected over a year ago.
Last week, the Republicans unveiled their health care bill, which I read through, and I found some good amendments buried within a plan that really just puts gum in the bridge supports.
It costs only $61 billion, will allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, will make no cuts to Medicare (Republicans argue the Democrat plan will cut $500 billion from Medicare, although Dems say they would only cut waste) and will offer high-risk pools, or subsidies, to help high-risk individuals afford insurance.
I agree with the idea of allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, but the Republicans offer no regulatory agents in their plan, which mean that insurance companies can just travel to low-regulation states and gouge customers by scaling back coverage.
Another problem with the GOP plan is the high-risk pools. There is a reason you’ve not heard many health care proponents mention them: They don’t work.
They need to be subsidized enough by the government to be effective. The GOP allocates only $25 billion to the plan between 2010 and 2019.
Given the massive amount that individuals with pre-existing conditions must already pay, and the insistence that they pay “50 percent more” than healthy people for insurance under the GOP plan, many customers with pre-existing conditions will still find the premiums too high.
Considering the enormous amount of criticism the GOP has given to the Democratic plan, I expected a better alternative.
Nevertheless, the Democratic plan has its share of shortcomings and controversies, too, strengthening my belief that it will not pass this year.
First, there is the Stupak Amendment in the bill, which requires that no insurance company in the exchange or public option should cover abortion in their policies.
Second, it mandates that every individual obtain coverage, which could be a disastrous prospect if there is no public option, but even if there is a government-run system, Congressional Budget Office estimates premiums for the government option could be higher than private policies.
We lose either way.
The Democratic talking point is, “We can either do this or do nothing, which is not an option.” But right now, given the questionable proposals by both parties, I’m not convinced that doing nothing would be much worse.