H.R.3962- Affordable Health Care for America Act (Introduced in House)
The House of Representatives this past Saturday night, on November 7th, 2009, passed a historic bill to bring much needed “reform” to the health care of the United States. This bill was met with much fan-fare and has created a ton of momentum for the Democrats heading into the vote in the Senate.
Pelosi, being awfully proud of this accomplishment had this to offer:
This legislation is founded on key principles for a healthier America: innovation, competition, and prevention. It improves quality, lowers cost, expands coverage to 36 million more people and retains choice. Our innovation began in the recovery package in January – with $19 billion for health IT, the first step in lowering cost and improving quality, and $8 billion investments in biomedical research. This legislation will mean affordability for the middle-class, security for our seniors, and honors our responsibility to our children, adding not one dime to the deficit.
When Barack Obama was campaigning hard to win the Presidency he promised that he would try to get Universal health care accomplished. He would not only bring the reform that was voted on recently, but he would support a bill that would provide health care to every single US Citizen. Universal is defined as including, relating to, or affecting all members; it is not defined as 96%.
In fact, the title of this bill is, “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.” The goal is to provide ‘quality health care for all Americans,’ but 4% of Americans will still be without. This is pitiful.
The health bill will change considerably once it gets debated in the Senate, but the percentage of those covered will only decrease and maybe it will stay the same. It is true that this is a major stepping stone to get to our goal of Universal Health Care, but this bill is not what anyone had in mind.
The progressives already have conceded defeat on this bill by not mandating a public option or 100% coverage. A last minute amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak “prohibits federal funds for abortion services in the public option.” Many pro-choice advocates are quite upset by this because they see it as limiting a woman’s right to choose. The view is that abortion is a medical procedure that should be offered because it is a legal right.
The conservatives are clearly not happy with this bill either. They are going to be dealing with increased taxes, including “5.4% surtax on individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $500,000” and “a 2.5% excise tax on medical devices.” This bill will increase the bureaucracy in the federal government and impose stricter regulation on the insurance agencies and other businesses. This bill “requires employers to offer health benefits coverage to employees and make specified contributions towards such coverage or make contributions to the Exchange for employees obtaining coverage through the Exchange. Exempts businesses with payrolls below $500,000 from such requirement.”
So, to sum this up. No funds for abortion in this bill and we will have new taxes on wealthy Americans and business. We are stuck with a slimmed down public option exchange with no single-payer not-for-profit system. And some how we are only able to cover 96% of Americans total? This is neither a victory for America, the Democrats or the Republicans. The only group that is seemingly happy with this bill is the big Health Insurance providers who are thankful a real public option was not added.
What we needed to do was overhaul our system and have actual reform, not just restrictions. America needs a single-payer health care system. In a capitalist society it is fool-hearted to not allow the citizens of that society to use their large demand for a good or service as leverage to get a better price and deal. If Wal-Mart is able to negotiate like this, why can’t America?
Two Democrats that voted ‘no’ to H.R.3962 had some great perspective to add to this already loathsome debate.
Rep. Collin Petersen of Minnesota’s seventh congressional district:
“Although the bill was full of good intentions, our current system is fiscally unsustainable and this bill won’t change that. Medicare’s current unfunded liabilities are some $37 trillion, and Medicaid is close behind at around $35 trillion. This is money we don’t have, money we’ll have to borrow from foreign countries or raise here at home through tax increases. We have to tackle this problem and fix the underlying structural problems in both Medicare and Medicaid.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio’s 10th District:
“We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.”
“Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.”
“But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies – a bailout under a blue cross.”
“By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress’ blog, Think Progress, states, ‘since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.’ Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that ‘money will start flowing in again’ to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. Investors.com last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.”
“During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The ‘robust public option’ which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.”
“Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks’ hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy – in which most Americans live – the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street.”
“This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America’s manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care.”
“Notwithstanding the fate of H.R. 3962, America will someday come to recognize the broad social and economic benefits of a not-for-profit, single-payer health care system, which is good for the American people and good for America’s businesses, with of course the notable exceptions being insurance and pharmaceuticals.”
The American people elected Obama, a Democrat Senate and House in order to bring about liberal reforms to a system that has succumbed to the pressures of increased control by big business, interest groups and the always powerful military industrial complex. So, we now are trying to fix a broken system by using a broken system.
Why allow the big business and interest groups to continue to interfere in politics if it is clear they are the major problem preventing reform?
Our politicians will continue to bicker at each other and no real reform will be accomplished unless we get leaders who are truly independent. This reform does not have to be a government run system. The State of Minnesota has proven that we can have tremendous success by using co-ops instead of for-profit insurers. We need to have real conversation about this issue and we need to have real reform. But this will not happen as long as the media fails in its job and special interests are allowed to dominate US Politics on the federal, state and local level.
Meanwhile, according to the U.S Census, “the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008, while the percentage remained unchanged at 15.4 percent.”
The time for this reform has long past and the current bill will not do enough and costs too much. This really is too bad; because there was a feeling of hope about the possibility we could enact some real change. But our legislature blew it again. This is what happens when you back down to the misinformation peddlers.
I guess we will continue down the path of stop-gap measures and inadequacy. At least our 46.3 million who are uninsured will have a lot of jobs to go after. Oh, wait; we are over 10% unemployment. Good job Washington, real good job.