We’re not going to have a revamped health care system for Christmas, but it looks like we’re going to have a Senate health care bill by Christmas eve.
The larger task of merging it with the House bill so that we end up with something that makes sense remains. 2010 promises to start with a bang. We have no choice but to forgive 2009 for its crushing disappointments and move on.
After a century of talking about it, health care reform has come farther than it ever has before, but compromises, amendments, and drama for the cameras have made the actual legislation contained in the Senate bill nearly impossible to follow from one day to the next.
According to Bloomgerg.com, $600 million has been spent in 2009 trying to influence members of Congress, and there are 3,300 lobbyists registered to lobby on health care — that’s six for each of the 535 members of the House and the Senate. The battle was not only costly, but ugly, with thoughts about actual health care matters largely left out of the discussion as the powers that be fought for their own special interests.
It is almost a given that the final bill will be a far cry from badly needed comprehensive health care reform that will cover all Americans and provide serious competition for the insurers who hold us hostage. More Americans will be covered, but it is likely that tens of millions will continue to fall through the cracks.
Insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or rescind policies from the sick, but with no public option, it remains to be seen if premiums will be affordable for middle income Americans, or if we’ll be paying a mandate penalty.
It’s obvious that whatever legislation is passed in the end, it won’t meet all of our expectations. Rather, it will be step one in a very long movement toward providing all citizens with access to health care. No matter how you feel about the final bill, the movement will not end with the passage of a single piece of legislation.
The Washington Post reports that President Obama is defending the bill, saying he is “”not just grudgingly supporting the bill. I am very enthusiastic about what we have achieved,” and that the Senate bill accomplishes 95 percent of what he called for during his 2008 presidential campaign.
Here’s one bit of good news about health care as we bid adieu to 2009: This week, President Obama signed a measure to extend the federal subsidy for an additional six months (for a total of 15 months) for COBRA for terminated workers who had employer-based group plans. That’s good news if you happen to be in that group. If you fell off the rolls before the original subsidy was in place, you’re still out of luck.
That’s been the biggest part of our problem all along… too many ways for honest, hard-working people to fall out of the system… far too many people hanging out over the edge of the cliff. You can tell a lot about a nation by how it treats its own, particularly when it comes to health. We can do better than this. We’ve got a lot riding on 2010.
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