Monday, November 09, 2009

HOUSE HEALTH CARE BILL

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a health care bill (everyone says "reform", but we'll see; I prefer Orwellian nightmare). It is charitably called the "Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2009 (H.R. 3962)".

The vote was very close, 220-215.

Only one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana, voted for the bill.

39 Democrats voted against the bill.

Representative Chet Edwards of Waco, Texas, was one of those. He said, "Given the huge federal deficits facing our nation, I believe there is too much new spending in this bill … I also have concerns about a government-run 'public option' insurance company and question whether this bill goes far enough in actually reducing health care costs for working families and businesses."

The process also showed that Roman Catholics are more influential in congress than Southern Baptists. The RCC favors universal health care and opposes abortion being part of it. They prevailed in both areas. The original bill included money to subsidize abortions, but an amendment to prohibit it, with some exceptions, passed 240-194. Otherwise, the bill would likely have failed.

The House says its bill will cover 96 percent of the nation's eligible population. It will cost $1.2 trillion over 10 years. It includes the controversial public option and will require employers to provide coverage. Many business owners are unhappy about this. I provided health insurance to my employees when I had my own business, at least after I realized its importance. I believe employers should try to do that, as group plans are cheaper than individual plans. Very small employers may just not be able to afford it.

Hospitals have actively lobbied for the bill, because it means revenue to them. Treating the uninsured and non-paying public is a big drain on every hospital's resources. People without insurance generally never pay a penny on their bill.

However, hospitals are now worried that the rates will be based on Medicare rates, which are very low. States are worried that the expanded eligibility for Medicaid
(150 percent of the federal poverty level) at a time when states are struggling with severe budget shortfalls.

Republicans in the senate do not intend to roll over. They say they will start from scratch, not using the House bill as a starting point. Even some moderate Democratic senator think the House bill is unacceptable.

This may take a while. Senators have repeatedly said they would not deliver a bill by the end of the year despite urging from the president. No floor debate has even been put on the calendar.

All of those with opposition to the House bill will intensify lobbying in the Senate. Abortion advocates will surely be all over the Senate, seeking to make taxpayers pay for abortions even if they oppose abortion. Those who think the whole thing is too expensive will also be noisy.

Democracy is messy even when it tilts toward socialism.
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