Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Health Reform Snowe Job

The Senate Finance Committee finally voted 14-9 its sweeping health care bill out of committee Tuesday with the lone Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine on board. Whoopty doo. Now maybe we can get down to business and fix the system.

This bill is a massive subsidy to private insurance carriers who are not happy because it falls short of universal coverage which would mean more bucks in their pockets with little guarantees it would stop inflating premium prices and rising costs. All this to gain one frigging vote from a Republican who promises her support may not be there once the bill is reconciled with the Senate's other bill from its committee on health chaired by Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

Don't be surprised that the deal the Obama administration struck with the drug barons, American Medical Association and private insurance lobbies for support falls apart by the time a final version is hammered out in conference for a floor vote in both houses of Congress.

Folks, get ready for a bill Obama will sign that accomplishes some reform and regulation of insurance practices but fails to insure everyone including many small businesses and does little to control health care inflation.

Here's another morsel to digest. All tax increases in the final plan will go into effect immediately but the reform process will not kick in until 2013. That's the major reason the Congressional Budget Plan declared the Senate Finance Plan cobbled by Sen. Max Baucus is deficit neutral in 10 years. In plain English, that means taxing 10 years but spending only seven. Any bloke could make that work.

The good thing is the health care legislation can now pick up steam. Why all the fuss over the Democratic-controlled Senate's efforts to snare at least one Republican vote? An appearance of bipartisanship. Holy moly, the comic character cracked. Whoopty doo, I say sarcastically. Here's what Snowe said earlier today before the panel's vote, according to the New York Times:

“Is this bill all that I would want? Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls.”

“The mark before us produces some bipartisan landmark reforms,” Snowe said. “It bolsters what works in the system and engenders quality and competition.” Snowe praised provisions in the bill that would help small businesses, and said it was the government’s responsibility to make sure that insurance was affordable for individuals and families.

With suspense building in the room as it became clear that she would announce her stance, Snowe said she still had many reservations about the legislation.

“At the same time I have shared my Republicans’ concerns about vast governmental bureaucracies and governmental intrusions — that’s why I opposed the amendment for the so-called public option,” she said.

“I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time,” she said moments later. ““There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey.”

She also warned that she would want to see an updated cost analysis before she votes on a motion for the full Senate to take up the health care bill. “My vote today is my vote today,” she said. “It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports lawmakers are reviving ideas that had been discarded, including a new approach to a government insurance plan that appears to be gaining support with party moderates.

One proposal attracting considerable attention originated with Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and would allow states to decide whether to create their own insurance plans or join forces to provide coverage in collaboration with neighboring states. Other Democrats want to take the state-based approach a step further, creating a national public plan that states could join. Carper, a moderate Democrat, said he is not sure he is prepared to go that far. "I'm just chewing on that one," he said.

Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), a moderate Democrat, was bullish on Carper's approach. "I think something like that is likely, and would probably pass muster with moderates," he said. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who opposes a public option, said he likes Carper's idea. "I think the states, as laboratories of democracy, probably can find ways to deal with this, and if they do make a mistake it's a smaller mistake to correct than at the federal level," Nelson said.

The legislation voted on today includes $463 billion in subsidies over the next decade and would result in 94% of Americans having insurance coverage, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

Industry leaders and healthcare experts consider universal coverage as crucial to making other changes to the healthcare system -- such as restraining the cost of premiums and prohibiting insurers from denying coverage for preexisting medical conditions. Reports the Los Angeles Times:

"The larger the insurance pool, the better able you are to spread risk," said Peter Harbage, a healthcare consultant who has advised Democrats in Washington. "If you have universal coverage, you will have the most efficient system and best achieve affordable coverage."

Finally, if you don't think the lobbyists play a major role in fighting proposed healthcare legislation, read this from an article earlier this week in the New York Times.

In this debate, everyone, including the consumer, is out for themselves only and screw the rest of the people.

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