There's a battle royale being waged among Democrats today. On the left, progressive bloggers like Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, Markos Moulistsas of DailyKos, Howard Dean and even Keith Olbermann all, to one degree or another, saying that the health care bill passed by the Senate isn't reform and should either be killed or vastly improved, or it should not be passed.
And on the left is Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver, and the man who pretty much invented the public option, Jacob Hacker, all coming out in support of the bill.
And then there's me and, I'm guessing, lots of other people who can argue both sides of the battle.
I'm for passing anything that gives more people access to health care. It's an abomination that the United States of America doesn't treat its people with more compassion. This is the only industrialized country on the planet in which health care is not considered a basic human right; the only country in which someone can lose everything simply because he, she or a family member got sick... even those who have health insurance!
I'm for passing whatever bill comes out of conference, even without any improvements that hopefully will be inserted during conference, because we can't afford to do nothing! As it now stands, insurance companies can deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and can employ a practice known as "rescission" and cancel your policy at any time, just because they decide to (and it's always because you're note enough of a profit center for them).
As flawed as it is, the current Senate bill would do away with those practices.
The latest version of the bill also includes some other really good provisions:
- They've banned pre-existing conditions for children immediately, starting in 2010.
- Insurance companies will be banned from the exchange if they raise their rates above a certain amount. And if an insurer denies a claim, there will be an independent board to which customers can appeal.
- There are $1.25 billion in new resources for community health centers in the bill, totaling $10 billion overall. (We can thank Bernie Sanders for this one!) And there's more. But basically, it's a foundation from which real reform can build upon.
But then there's also me, on the left, who says "Wait a minute. This bill truly sucks. It's a massive bailout for the for profit health insurance extortionists." (Really, I do say that!)
There are so many good reasons to scrap this monstrosity of a bill and start over. The most blatant one is the fact that we will be required to purchase policies from companies who put profits over patients. We will be forced to pay anywhere from 8 to over 20% of our hard-earned money to these leeches, and those who cannot afford it will receive subsidies to help pay. The subsidies come from our tax dollars, and that money will go to boost the profits of this already obscenely profitable industry who makes money off of the sick, while we struggle to get care.
A few more reasons to kill the bill:
- The taxes and the expense of this bill start immediately, though most of the benefits don't kick in until 2013 or 2014!
- Although we can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, there are no limits on what the insurance extortionists can charge you for the policy, so can effectively deny coverage by making it too expensive for you to buy.
- Although it purports to end sex discrimination by doing away with the 48% in additional premiums women currently pay over what men are charged, abortion rights are extremely curtailed, setting women's rights back 30 years.
The bill will emerge from the Senate and head to conference where it will merge with the House bill. We must push, hard, to get as many improvements as possible.
Last night, I spoke with Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who co-chairs the House Progressive Caucus, and asked him what they will do to insure that we get some real reform in the final health care bill. (Listen to that interview by clicking here)
I'm still clinging to that word we heard so much during the campaign... HOPE. I'm hoping that those who still think that President Obama is playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers are right. I hope that once this bill with insurance reform is passed, the President will get Congress to use reconciliation to give us the public option or medicare buy in (for anyone who wishes to participate), and truly give us real health care reform.
Now that would be a wonderful way to start the next decade!