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The Health Care Soap Opera: A Senate Bill By Christmas?

The Health Care Soap Opera: A Senate Bill By Christmas?

Early Monday morning, the senate voted 60-40 along straight party lines to defeat the initial attempt to filibuster the health care reform bill. Yesterday, it passed the second of three procedural votes, bringing the Senate one step closer to a final vote on the health care reform bill. Majority Speaker Harry Reid (D-NV) is on schedule to vote on the bill before Christmas.

In the last-minute negotiations leading up to these votes, Reid made stiff concessions to conservative Democrats, eliminating the public option and the expanded Medicare buy-in to placate Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Sen. Ben Nelson (R-NE) got tougher restrictions on abortion funding, though not as tough as those spelled out in the Stupak amendment to the House bill.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a socialist who caucuses with the Democrats, has apparently given up his threat to filibuster a bill with no public option. Instead, he’s taking his turn as “the 60 vote,” reports Katrina Vanden Huevel in The Nation. Sanders is using his leverage to push for waivers which would allow states to develop their own health insurance systems, possibly including single payer. Canada’s celebrated Medicare program began in a single province and eventually went national.

In AlterNet, Zaid Jilani argues that President Barack Obama failed his progressive base by all but abandoning the public option. As Jilani points out, Obama is even trying to rewrite his own record on the issue. Now he says he didn’t campaign on a public option. Jilani reminds us that the Obama-Biden campaign platform promised that “any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan.” Obama was promising a sweeping public option. Even the House bill would only make a tiny fraction of the population eligible for the public option.

It’s not surprising that the health care bills before us favor vested interests in the health insurance sector. Health care companies spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, and 166 former congressional aides who used to work on health care legislation have registered as lobbyists, reports Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.

Rachel Larris reports in RH Reality Check that many pro-choice groups will not back the final bill if it contains Sen. Nelson’s abortion funding restrictions. Elsewhere on the Hill, the 190-member House Pro-Choice Caucus is huddling with attorneys and insurance companies to plan their next move.

The Senate bill seems destined to pass. Then the negotiations to merge the House and Senate bills will begin. The House bill has a public option and draconian abortion funding restrictions. The Senate bill has no public options and slightly milder restrictions on abortion. Realistically, the conservative Democrats have most of the leverage at this point. They still need 60 votes to defeat a filibuster. If even one joins in filibuster, the final bill will die. Sen. Nelson has already threatened to filibuster the conference report if substantial changes are made to the bill in conference.

At the end of the day, health care reform seems likely to eliminate discrimination based on preexisting conditions, offer subsidies for the purchase of private insurance, and set up some insurance exchanges that might bring down costs some day. These are real gains, but have been won at the cost of subsidizing the insurance companies who caused the problem the first place and leaving women’s rights by the wayside.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Cynthia Samuels
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium

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48 comments

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4:48PM PST on Dec 29, 2009

Health to be for all in full respect and with dignity

3:23PM PST on Dec 29, 2009

insurance is in it for the $ not to help people, i worked for on for years and it was a disgrace!

9:28AM PST on Dec 27, 2009

Paul,

There is already a shortage of doctors, especially primary care, and it is only going to get worse. this is not cause by medicare, it is cause by the INSURANCE companies, which are for profit industries. Whether you are referring to insurance companies for malpractice or health insurance it is irrelevant, they are all cut from the same cloth and operate the same way, they suck the life out of everything.

If insurance companies were not for profit the picture would be entirely different, then this model might work. However being for profit they will deny coverage, raise rates and copays while at the same time decreasing payments to medical professionals, all the while increasing the profits for themselves and their shareholders. This goes on every year as my health care practitioners tell me they receive less, I pay more in co-pays andpremiums and the insurance companies laugh all the way to the bank.

The model is the problem and until we have a new model there will be no health care reform.

9:23AM PST on Dec 27, 2009

Paul,

All HSA's are not that way, mine is use it or lose it.

7:10AM PST on Dec 27, 2009

Sure, Paul, your governments' past record on health care has been abysmal, but one believes that an entirely new approach is intended. President Obama shows more concern for the welfare of his people than any other of your presidents since FDR. I would far rather trust him, assuming that he is not obstructed by those who see their former profits threatened, than to place confidence in the organisation of any money-grubbing tycoon.

6:36AM PST on Dec 27, 2009

Lionel, I have to respectfully disagree. Private industries have acted within the laws and regulations established by gov't. These laws and regs left massive loopholes or sometimes gave incentives to these companies to do exactly what they have done.

The gov'ts record in health care is worse than private industries. The Medicare/Medicaid trustees report indicates that the system will have to have a massive influx of money just to continue serving the existing members. This report does not include the potential expansion of the Health Bill.

6:33AM PST on Dec 27, 2009

Pa,

I agree that HSA's do not affect the costs of medical care. But, the HSA typically has a substantially lower premium than HMO's and PPO's and it has a built in investment account so that over the long term you will have the money in your HSA to pay your health care costs.

Seems like a good time to mention that the Health Care bill also does not address the costs of health care. It addresses only the price. This approach is the reason that many doctors do not take Medicare/Medicaid patients. The price set by Medicare for reimbursement is below the costs for the doctor to provide the service. This drives doctors out of the system. If implemented universally, it will cause a shortage of doctors.

Tort reform would affect the costs for doctors by reducing the costs of malpractice insurance. Gov't can also provide tax incentives, or elimination of corporate taxes entirely, which would lower the costs of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. However, given that Congress does not have the knowledge or ability to run a business, it is highly doubtful that this group we have now will do anything that reduces the costs side of the medical care industry. Those that are able to get service, will pay less for the service and all of us can rejoice as we pay more for the insurance provided by Uncle Sam's poorly designed solution.

5:27AM PST on Dec 27, 2009

Sandra,

My point is I have an HSA and it DOES NOT make any appreciable difference in my health care costs, all it does is save a little money on taxes, it is not the answer or even a significant part of the answer to our health care crisis.

1:47AM PST on Dec 26, 2009

It is astonishing that anyone should suggest that anything as important as health care ought to be left as the responsibility of private companies after the financial fiasco that they have recently foisted upon the world. The private sector is not in the slightest concerned with anybody's welfare, but solely with exploitation, extorting profit.

10:47PM PST on Dec 25, 2009

hope someday every citizen will be treated with dignity.

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