Monday, November 9, 2009

"Healthcare" Reform Clears the House

If you have never contacted your US Senator to express your opinion on impending legislation, this might be the time to take the plunge. The US House of Representatives on Saturday passed its "healthcare reform" bill by the narrow margin of 5 votes (220 - 215), only 3 votes more than needed for passage. Regardless of your opinion on healtcare reform or this bill in particular, its fair to say that it is not about reforming the US healthcare system at all but rather changing the rules by which Americans obtain heath insurance. How adding millions of additional people into a system that we already cannot pay for or afford qualifies as "reform" is mysterious to me. How another TRILLION dollars of healthcare spending that will eventually be financed by debt moves us forward toward the goal of affordable healthcare for all our citizens escapes me.

Attention now turns to the US Senate, which is working on its own bill. There are some key differences between the bill that the House approved and the bill the Senate is considering, including:

  • The House bill requires employers to provide coverage; the Senate does not.
  • The House bill pays for the coverage expansion by raising taxes on upper-income earners; the Senate uses a variety of taxes and fees, including a levy on high-cost insurance plans.
  • The House bill costs about $1.2 TRILLION over 10 years; the Senate version is under $900 BILLION.
By far the largest issue as the Senate crafts its final bill is the so-called "public option" to create a government sponsored health insurance program that would compete with private insurers. There is also considerable skepticism about the real cost of the program, particularly the $400B in "savings" to be realized by reducing Medicare program payments to healthcare providers. Current law already includes these cost cutting provisions but the Congress has never allowed a cut to be implemented, voting year by year to rescind them.

However this turns out it will impact YOU and your heathcare and your income. Whichever side of the issue you are on, don't wait until it is too late to make your voice heard.

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