Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Relief Bill Passes

It took them nearly a year but the president and the Democratic majority in Congress have passed a health care reform bill which will be signed into law within the very near future. It is by no means a perfect bill and in fact some of us would question whether it can even be described as a good reform bill but it will nevertheless provide 30 million Americans with more affordable access to health care. It will, in the long term, ban insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions (children now; adults in 2014) and it will allow younger Americans to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until the age of 26.

The president has now accomplished what former President Bill Clinton did not. He passed a health care reform package. Mr. Clinton did not. The bill reads more like a health care relief rather than a health care reform bill. It does not reign in the health insurance companies. It neither offers Americans the liberal option of promoting competition (by allowing them to buy Medicare coverage) nor does it offer them a modified conservative plan to promote competition (by allowing us to purchase health insurance across state lines, which might have worked if the insurance rules were leveled nationwide and strictly regulated as a utility, two things not included within the Republican proposal).

But the Republicans were never in this debate and never made an effort to contribute to this debate. They haven't proposed any market-based reform package that would cover 30 million uninsured Americans when the president offered them an opportunity and they haven't proposed any market-based reform package to do that when they were in power. To be perfectly honest, the Republicans have proven that, for the past decade anyway, that they have no interest in making health insurance more affordable to those who cannot as of now purchase it.

Ultimately if the United States is going to cut health care costs, it will have to (a) shift the payment reimbursement incentives away from services to one based upon effective treatment, (b) reform tort law, and (c) cut into the profits of the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies that inflate the health care costs (either by promoting competition or by eliminating the profit-based system entirely).

Passing this bill, however, allows health care reform advocates to work on the next steps at a future date. For passing this bill which provides more Americans with an opportunity to purchase affordable health insurance, the Democrats deserve our commendation.

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