So today’s SEVEN hour health care summit is over. I had it on in the background for the first three hours. And then it was the lunch break. And I didn’t come back. Coz I figured I could get a pretty good summary later on. (And I can. See Politico, HuffPo’s live-blog coverage, and the BBC. Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post listed his winners and losers. More importantly, you can find White House pictures of the event here, and FactCheck.org’s invaluable truth-telling here.)
From what I saw, far too many were trotting out tired old talking points, talking at each other rather than with each other, trying to score political points or to posture for their viewing audience. The President was at his community-organizer-best, trying to find common ground, trying to get people to cooperate and coordinate their efforts. But I have a feeling that, even though there is much in the present bill that Republicans agree upon, they’ve dug themselves into their positions to such an extent–both sides have, actually–that it’s too difficult to climb out and work together. And that’s one of the things that frustrates me about politics.
Anyway, it seems that the President has set an Easter deadline (or target, depending on how you want to look at it) for health care reform to pass. Which means we have four weeks to get this thing done. What happens if nothing gets passed? I dunno … the millions of people without health insurance will continue to go without health insurance, insurance premiums will continue to go up, health care spending will continue to explode our deficit, and America will continue to be the only industrialized country where people can go bankrupt because they got sick.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill (H.R. 3962) with two votes to spare (220-215), with 39 Democrats voting against and Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao the lone Republican to vote for the bill. Here’s the final roll call.
This came in spite of some appalling behavior by some unruly Republicans, who refused to let the Democratic Women’s Caucus speak, even shouting them down at points.
A little more about the bill (thanks to the Congressional Budget Office and PICO Network):
- It extends coverage to 36 million people who would otherwise be uninsured, achieving 96 percent coverage among non-elderly adults who are legal U.S. residents. In comparison, the Senate Finance version (proposed by Sen. Max Baucus) would cover only 29 million.
- It also does much better than the Senate Finance version at setting premiums and out-of-pocket costs at levels that families–especially families at the lowest income levels–can actually afford.
- According to CBO estimates, it would actually reduce the federal deficit by $104 billion over ten years.
- It’s paid for by a 5.4% surtax on high-income individuals earning more than $500k annually for individuals and $1 million per year for families. Other savings will (hopefully!) come from making Medicare more efficient and requiring employers with payrolls above $500k to either provide coverage or pay a penalty.
- It provides a public option in the health insurance exchange in order to control health care costs.
- The bill fails to eliminate the five year waiting period in Medicaid for documented immigrants, as was done with the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Many of the bill’s provisions don’t take effect until 2013, which is much longer than most of us would want or expect.
It’s not perfect. But it’s certainly stronger than the Senate Finance version with which the House bill will need to be merged, assuming Harry Reid can corral 60 votes in the Senate.
And it’s a start. Now let’s keep the ball rolling.