Burke’s Law XV: Heavy Lifting on Healthcare Reform

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By Elizabeth Burke
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report

On Sat., Nov. 7, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, by a 220-to-215 vote, a margin that was a little too close for comfort. After all, five votes does not a mandate make. It also leaves 215 representatives, including 39 Democrats, believing nothing is the right thing to do. To those “Dempublicans,” I can only say this: you’d better have a good defense for your “screw you” vote when running for reelection next year.

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Actually, there were two bills in the House last week. The Democratic bill was a monster at some 1,900 pages. But the Republicans also put out a version of a healthcare bill — just 220 pages, about the length of a Harlequin romance and just as deep. I tried to read both versions, beginning with the Democrats’. It is, I will confess, a very wordy document! As I looked for help in deciphering those, er, words, here’s what I learned from thesimon.com:

Despite what you may have heard, the Democrats’ plan IS Socialism, pure and simple. This is the first step in President Obama’s “Godless Society” (mentioned in a little-covered speech that aired on C-Span 2 on March 3rd of this year – look for it on YouTube); Step Two is mandatory community service of no less than three years for all citizens; Step Three is the outlawing of religion and guns; and last but not least, Step Four requires all citizens to be tagged with radio transmitters for tracking purposes by the United Nations. (There is some debate as to whether or not Obama himself can sign these steps into law, since his Kenyan citizenship may not make the signing constitutionally valid.)

TheSimon.com also commented on the GOP bill, “which appears to have been written on the back of a cocktail napkin after a crazy night on C Street”:

Abortion, birth control, Viagra… ANYTHING having to do with sex will not be covered through the Republican plan, because as the napkin says, “sex = bad.” Unless it’s with an underage Congressional page or someone outside your own marriage, like an Argentine mother or the wife of one of your employees. In any case, rich white sex addicts will be allowed to seek treatment with the help of “The Family,” the quasi-political Republican group that secretly runs the country. All others are shit outta luck. For abortions, start saving up to go to Canada, ladies, because the Republicans will move to repeal Roe v. Wade with the help of a willing Supreme Court. (But once no one’s having sex, it shouldn’t be an issue in the first place.)

Meanwhile, to make all of your lives easier, I will now break down the bills so you don’t have to cry your way through some of the most mind-numbing legalese in history of legalese.

First, the Democratic Plan:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the Democrats’ bill will increase coverage to an additional 36 million people, raising the number of insured to 96 percent. It also contains these basic tenets:

  • Ensuring value and lower premiums;
  • Ending health insurance rescission abuse;
  • Sunshine on price-gouging by health insurance issuers;
  • Requiring the option of extension of dependent coverage for uninsured young adults (your children don’t get kicked off your insurance at age 22);
  • Limitations on preexisting condition exclusions in group health plans in advance of applicability of new prohibition of preexisting condition exclusions;
  • Prohibiting acts of domestic violence from being treated as preexisting conditions (yes, insurance companies have actually called domestic violence a pre-existing condition);
  • Ending health insurance denials and delays of necessary treatment for children with deformities (insurance companies had to be forced to do this?);
  • Elimination of lifetime limits;
  • Prohibition against postretirement reductions of retiree health benefits by group health plans;
  • Reinsurance program for retirees;
  • Wellness program grants;
  • Extension of COBRA continuation coverage;
  • State Health Access Program grants;
  • Improving and simplifying financial assistance for low-income medicare beneficiaries;
  • Protecting the choice to keep current coverage;
  • Prohibiting preexisting condition exclusions;
  • Guaranteed issue and renewal for insured plans and prohibiting rescissions.

This is the Republican Plan (quoting directly from the legislation–click on the link to read it for yourself):

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PURPOSE.-The purpose of this Act is to take meaningful steps to lower health care costs and increase access to health insurance coverage (especially for individuals with preexisting conditions) without-

  • raising taxes;
  • cutting Medicare benefits for seniors
  • adding to the national deficit
  • intervening in the doctor-patient relationship
  • instituting a government takeover of health care

The Republican plan claims it will lower the cost of premiums 10 percent. Wow! So if my bill each month as a single payer is $400, thanks to the Republicans I will pay only $360? That’s huge savings!

The CBO has found insurance coverage under the Republicans’ plan would increase by 3 million, and the percentage of insured non-elderly adults would remain at about 83 percent after ten years.

The CBO has also found that the Republicans’ plan would lower federal budget deficits by $68 billion during the period from 2010 to 2019.

The CBO has also found that the Democrats’ plan would lower the federal budget deficit by a bigger number — $109 billion — over the same period.

CBO analysts have finally — and perhaps most crucially — concluded that under the Republicans’ plan, some 52 million Americans under 65 would still have no insurance by 2019. That’s 2 million more Americans than are uninsured right now.

By comparison, the Democrats’ plan would reduce the total number of nonelderly without coverage to 18 million by 2019.

Here, from what I can tell, is also what is missing from the Republicans’ bill:

  • No ban on preexisting conditions;
  • Nothing to help cover the majority of underinsured;
  • No ending rescission abuse;
  • No elimination of lifetime limits;
  • No subsidies to make coverage more affordable to people of modest means;
  • No evidence of better healthcare: While the GOP claims their bill will lower premiums, it will be encourage far more inferior plans. Their idea pay less, get less. It’s the free-market system at work!

Clearly — and consistent with their approach to healthcare reform all year — Republicans don’t believe there’s an issue with healthcare in the United States. To drive home this point, this is what Rep. Steve King (R-NY) said this on Nov. 7:

Which begs the question: Where does Rep. King live? I mean, really? Every American has healthcare?

I can say I’m a 22-year-old six-foot blonde, but repeating that belief won’t make it so.

Now healthcare reform now sits squarely in the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). For reasons I just can’t fathom, Reid recently claimed the bill might not come up for a vote before year’s end, that he wouldn’t be “bound by timelines.” Worse, some Democrats recently suggested that getting a bill done this year is a “no-go.”

So as Reid’s office busily backtracks, and as we realize that we never needed, and were never going to get, a bipartisan consensus on healthcare, here’s the bottom line: We need a majority of moral, courageous, gutsy senators to stand up and vote aye on reform. It’s the Christmas present our country needs.