Monday, November 9, 2009

Health Care Plan: Battle Won But Not the War

It's always something. The U.S. Senate is making it perfectly clear that it has no intention of accepting the baton when it comes to running with health care reform. The primary Senate objection is to the government health insurance plan in the House bill passed on this past Saturday.

The party affiliation shape shifter Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent) has declared , "... as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote." South Carolina's Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) has proclaimed, "The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate." In addition, a few moderate Democrats said to hold the power in the Senate, are opposed to the government health insurance plan included in the House bill.

The power in the hands of the few moderate Democrats is the power to stop a Republican led filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) needs 60 votes to start debate and 60 votes to end discussion and call the bill to a final vote. Those few moderate Democrats' votes are very important in the scheme of things.

The primary opposition to the government plan is that it puts the government into competition with private insurers. I feel as if I've missed something. Haven't the conservatives supported capitalism and its system of free market enterprise with cries of competition is good?

Lieberman asserts that his opposition to a public option arises from his belief that it could be a huge and costly entitlement program. Entitlement is a big buzz word, implying that a slew of undeserving persons will benefit from the public option. How do you deserve medical care? How can you be undeserving of medical care? In one of the most affluent nations in the world, how can it possibly be acceptable that some people don't receive health care because of exorbitant costs for medical care and/or health insurance?

I smell more compromise in the air. Already, Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who voted for a version of the Senate bill in committee, has provided the Democrats with a fallback position. She's proposing the "trigger" option which would allow a government plan as a last resort, if after a few years premiums keep escalating and local health insurance markets remain in the grip of a few big companies. Frankly, I think that the trigger has already been pulled, over and over again. Exactly how costly do premiums have to get and how extensive does the monopoly of the health insurance market by a few major players have to be before the need for a government plan is triggered?

There are other major differences between the House and Senate bills:
  • The House would require employers to provide coverage; the Senate would not.
  • The House would pay for the coverage expansion by raising taxes on upper-income earners; the Senate would use a variety of taxes and fees, including a levy on high-cost insurance plans.
  • The House plan would cost about $1.2 trillion over 10 years; the Senate version would cost under $900 billion.
Sigh, I guess that I need to keep my senators on speed dial. In the words of Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over."


jack-of-all-thumbs said...

Thanks for the concise comparison. Yes, plenty left to do. In fact, the fun's just beginning.

Beth said...

I don't know what is wrong with Lieberman. "Matter of conscience?" Gee, Joe, what about all those people who don't get any care at all and DIE because of it. Do they not weigh on your conscience at all? Gahhhh, makes my head want to explode.

A Canadian friend is wondering just what the hell is wrong with us and hopes we get our shit together. Me too.