House Unveils Healthcare Plan, Uncertain Fate Awaits in Senate
by RDemocrat, Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 01:46:32 PM EDT
Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.
After President Obama came back from overseas and "persuaded" Congress to get serious about Healthcare, lawmakers in the House have gotten on the ball. They unveiled their plan today to overhaul the system. It has a lot of good things in it, but predictably awaits an uncertain fate in the "House of Lords" known as the U.S. Senate and will probably draw opposition from Corporate Democrats as well as Republicans.
The bill calls for sacrifice from business, and the wealthiest Americans and would create a government plan to compete with private insurance and drive costs down:
The sweeping measure would imposes penalties on employers who fail to provide health insurance for their workers and on individuals who refuse to buy it.
The bill, to be debated in committee beginning later this week, also would require insurance companies to offer coverage, without exceptions or higher premiums in cases of pre-existing medical conditions. It also would allow the government to sell insurance in competition with private firms, a provision that has sparked objections from Republicans and even some Democrats.
Funding would come from a new tax on the wealthiest Americans and cuts from Medicaire and Medicaid. Employers would pay a penalty for not offering coverage and uninsured Americans would be expected to get insurance when costs are driven down:
Employers who do not offer coverage would be required to pay 8 percent of each uninsured worker's salary, with exemptions for smaller firms built into the legislation.
Individuals who refused to buy affordable coverage would be assessed as much as 2.5 percent of their adjusted gross income, up to the cost of an average health insurance plan, according to the legislation.
Of course, business groups that wish to maintain the status-quo so they do not have to make any sacrifices for the good of our nation quickly rose up against it:
As House leaders unveiled their bill, the business community sent a letter to lawmakers charging that parts of the legislation would damage the country's medical system and economy. They cited the proposed government-run insurance plan, a federal council that would make some decisions on benefits and a requirement that employers provide health coverage or pay a new tax.
"Exempting some micro-businesses will not prevent this provision from killing many jobs," the letter said. "Congress should allow market forces and employer autonomy to determine what benefits employers provide, rather than deciding by fiat."
I guess when you profit hansomely from a failed system it does not seem that bad. Unfortunately the huge majority of Americans do not have the luxury.
Of course, in the "House of Lords" that has become the U.S. Senate, these ideas have an uncertain fate:
Across the Capitol, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee slogged toward passage of its version of the bill on what is expected to be a party-line vote.
Because of jurisdictional issues, the Senate Finance Committee, a separate panel, retains control over the drafting of provisions paying for any legislation.
Obama told the committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, on Monday at the White House he wants legislation by week's end, officials reported. The president did not say whether he prefers a bipartisan bill, which Baucus has been trying to piece together with Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, or a bill tailored more to Democratic specifications.
In the Finance Committee some controversial issues remain unresolved, including how to pay for the bill and a Democratic demand for the government to sell insurance in competition with private industry, a proposal Republicans oppose strongly. Finance members have been laboring to produce a bipartisan bill, but Grassley, the panel's top Republican, told The Associated Press on Tuesday it's "still up in the air" whether any bill produced this week would be bipartisan.
Despite this House leaders and President Obama were encouraged by the progress:
"We are going to accomplish what many people felt wouldn't happen in our lifetime," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of one of three committees responsible for health care. Waxman, Pelosi and others stood before a banner that read: "Quality Affordable Health Care for the Middle Class."
In a statement, Obama praised the proposal, saying it "will begin the process of fixing what's broken about our health care system, reducing costs for all, building on what works and covering an estimated 97 percent of all Americans. And by emphasizing prevention and wellness, it will also help improve the quality of health care for every American."
I personally like a lot of the provisions in this bill. With the Bush tax cuts the very wealthy have been given a free ride for the last decade or so. It is time that they were expected to sacrifice. Also, businesses that do not offer benefits and pay low wages have been instrumental in causing the crisis and it is time that they took some responsibility in solving these problems.
I also think that before any mandate is pushed on the American people that we should have a public option to choose for those who private insurers have refused to cover at reasonable price. Without a public option there should be no mandate. However, once a public option is achieved and subsidies are provided to help the poorest Americans, I like that this bill calls for all Americans to be responsible and cover themselves.
If this bill is passed in it's current form, which may be highly unlikely I think it will be a serious attempt at real reform. I could support this House version and hope the Senate will follow the lead of the House.