Senate Bill by Christmas but No Health Care Reform in 2009

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, $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.

Related Reading:

Whitehouse to Republicans: There Will Be A Reckoning

You Go, Al Franken!

Compromising Your Reproductive Rights

Why I take health care reform personally and you should too


Comparison of House and Senate Health Care Bills

Get my updates on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Photo: Creative Commons License CC BY 2.0 via leoncillo sabino


Rajshree B.
Rajshree B8 years ago

Thanks for the post!

Deborah Beynon
Deborah B8 years ago

American is never going to have Healthcare Reform because America is owned and RUN by Corporate America, The Government "IS" running the healthcare now. Which is why we do not have any.

Arvind A.
Arvind A8 years ago

In the proposed HCR bills, subsidies and exchanges etc start in 8014. Apparently all the tears being shed by President and the Democratic Hill dwellers about the 45000 Americans dying are at best crocodile tears. I would imagine that for this tragedy equal to 15 911's in human toll, President would have declared a national Emergency to stop these deaths immediately.

How can these compassionate Democrats, accusing Republicans of being heartless, watch 200,000 more die waiting for 2013/2014. If this is a budget trick, it is a cynical political calculation to show President's fiscal awareness. Declaring a 900B limit appears sheer hypocrisy. Should he not be talking to all his Cabinet Secretaries, especially Secretary Gates to pony up cuts to take care of this Emergency. It is pure horse manure to claim it will take 4 years to set up. If we plan to take much better of the next Katrina, it makes no sense to treat this catastrophe at the same alert level if not higher.

I am also surprised that MSM is not raising hell on a daily basis. Anderson Cooper should be standing next to a few of the dying, instead of the drama of braving high winds and rain. Most surprising is that us activists and bloggers have also overlooked this heart wrenching situation. Should we not be talking about this as issue #1 ahead of all others.

Mervi R.
Mervi R8 years ago

ALL Americans need and deserve to be coverd!

Yukie Yamada
Past Member 8 years ago

Health care self sovereignty at

Dear Mr. Kelly,

Please see my internet site on under selfsovereignty. My perspective is from someone who has spent over 20 years in the front-line of service in acute care facilities, including research university settings, and in programs funded through "risk reduction" policies of the 80's and 90's.

Most articles and public statements by Obama and other adherents of this health care reform package speak repeatedly about payment of services and waste with surface-level reference to the moral imperative of providing basic services in a manner that is affordable, accessible and with enforceable standards of care.

Your internet magazine's emphasis is from the perspective of defense contractors and/or pharmaceutical companies who work in the educational industrial complex of medicine. You know that this paradigm does not profit from the implementation of basic services.

While working at UC San Francisco, I knew a researcher who resided in the top 10 percent of acetylcholine research and the effect of nicotine on nerve cells. He often joked that on weekends, he spent his time in the streets of San Francisco passing out cigarettes to street youth to get them addicted hoping that this would boost his share of tax revenue for research. He felt terribly guilty and finally went to work for a pharmaceutical to make more money in the private sector.

Policy makers, meaning those from academia, are committing an act of

Roger R.
Past Member 8 years ago

Why don't we AMERICANS buy HEALTH BONDS....just like War Bonds were sold to pay for the war.
Imagine the "kitty" we'd all have to invest (without government intervention) to pay for reasonable healthcare, have some competion over the "Monsters", and use some of the money to promote new inventions to put people back to work in this raped country? huh? I live outside the box.....could care less about making this "system" work....I have no faith in the minds involved in the mismanaged creation of this problem and those SAME HANDS involved in reform....duh?
I support RE-ELECT NO-ONE!

geoff h.
geoff h8 years ago

The NHS in Britain is still going strong despite the attempts by the right wing press and capitalist apologists to destroy it. However any political party wanting to do this would be anhialated at the polls.This is because we Brits see free health care as a basic human right and the first sign that a country is civilised. The view from this side of the pond is that your president is submitting to the vested interests- big business and lobbyists(what a corrupt way of government).Come on Obama you were elected on this promise. Free health care for all Americans and your term will be extended beyond the next election.

Talathiel Tlogesi GoodHea
.8 years ago

we deserve in the very least to have the House Bill's provisions implemented--otherwise it's not reform just crumbs of change (riddled with pro-insurance loopholes in them ntl).

Pa H.
P H8 years ago

Barbara W,

I am a progressive and I have news for you, Daniel is right. It is Obama that has sold out the American people, he is the one who wants mandatory insurance part of the bill, he is the one who made deals with the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies. He bears as much blame as the democrats and the republicans, they are all being paid well by the lobbyists and corporate America.

Barbara V.
Barbara V8 years ago

Daniel W: Did it ever occur to you that the way this health care bill turned out has nothing to do with the "progressives," but, rather, with the powers that be who actually run the country, among whom are the big corporations (in this case insurance companies) and Wall Street? They do not want health care for all, and the big insurance companies are only going to concede just so far and no further. What Mr. Obama designed as a package for health care for us and what the Republicans, lobbyists, and blue dogs did to break it down in favor of big insurance has nothing to do with his original plan. Everyone's under orders. You had better acquaint yourself with the true powers behind the throne before you spew out your lame accusations.