ELDER MUSIC: Christmas in Oz
ELDER GEEK: Playing With Boxes

Supporting the Senate Health Care Bill

category_bug_politics.gif So the Senate voted early this morning to end debate on their version of a health care bill. Why it was done in the middle of the night is a mystery. After eight months of raucous debate, it wasn't going to slip by unnoticed like those secret pay raises Congress gives itself.

Remember, this doesn't mean the bill has passed the Senate. There will be another few votes on procedural issues this week and then the final vote for passage on - another mystery - Christmas Eve. It's a done deal, they say, but given the obstructionism of the Republicans and the wavering of some Democrats, I don't trust passage until I see it.

Senate Republicans voted en masse against the bill. It is difficult to believe that there is not a single elected Republican who believes we don't need better health care. But many, if not most, hate this bill. Senator John McCain said in no uncertain terms on Fox News Sunday,

"We will fight until the last vote. We owe that to our constituents, because...we must do everything. We must look back and say, 'We did everything we can to prevent this terrible mistake from taking place.'"

A lot was lost from health care in the Senate negotiations – a public option; Medicare buy-in for uninsured people age 55-64; millions of federal dollars for Medicaid that should be shared by all states going to just Nebraska, the last of which Senate Leader Harry Reid called “compromise.” Phooey.

Some of the compromises are stunning in their stupidity. For example, a tax on cosmetic surgery has been replaced with a tax on tanning beds. Those cosmetic surgeons must have a better lobby than tanning bed enterprises since no sane person can make the case for cosmetic surgery over tanning.

Although most of the health care bill will not go into effect for three or four years (another outrage; Medicare went into effect 11 months after the bill was signed), insurers will be prohibited immediately from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Adults are not included until 2014. (How many will die between now and then for lack of coverage?)

On the up side, according to Vice President Joe Biden's Sunday Op-Ed in The New York Times:

”Insurance companies will no longer be able to...drop coverage when people get sick. Charging exorbitant premiums based on sex, age or health status will be outlawed. Annual and lifetime caps on benefits will be history. Those who already have insurance will be able to keep it...”

The bill includes a mandate for coverage and Americans who fail to purchase it would pay a penalty of $750 or two percent of their household income, whichever is higher. This would be fine if there were a guarantee of affordable coverage which there is not. Health care under this bill has been left in the hands of private insurers with no one to compete with but themselves - as it is now.

An additional 30 million people, it is said, would be insured under this plan leaving about 21 million still uninsured.

The bill is so far from what every developed country in the world has that it seems almost useless. It could have been so simple: expand Medicare to everyone. The needed bureaucracy is already in place, most of the kinks have long-since been worked out and it would create a risk pool of the entire population decreasing costs across the board. But our elected officials are venal and weak – that is the only explanation for their intransigence and heartlessness.

Nevertheless, I support the bill and do so because it – along with the House bill with which it must be merged – is a framework, a starting place, a beginning toward healthcare for everyone. It will be many years before that can be fully achieved, but with the legislation in place, health care cannot, as it was in the Clinton administration and seven times before that, be dropped into a black hole for another generation.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mark Sherman: What Were They Saying?


When a politician misleads and sells an illusion, people lose confidence in him. There have been examples aplenty. Often there is a demagogue out there
who appears and will give the people what they want. He is out there and he waits. He waits.

Most of my family are Nebraskans and we are very happy with the bill.

I hope the final product will at least serve as a stepping stone to universal health care, but I'm not encouraged by any of Congress' recent work 'improving' Medicare. I see this legislation classifying health care as something people are required to purchase insurance for (like car insurance) and not as a right.

I don't like it but it's likely going to pass. The goodies in it are hidden away. Some of the negative aspects (like overcharging for preexisting conditions or yearly limits) until 2014 which means it may never be resolved fairly. To me a mandate where there are no cost controls is wrong but the stock market will be thrilled. What it actually does to health care for the average citizen is uncertain from what I can tell. If you can't deny coverage but you can raise rates to an exorbitant level, it won't help most families who will then be forced to pay it anyway. It could have been so simple but that wasn't profitable :(

Let's hold our fire until we see what the merged bill looks like. I forgot (if I ever knew) that the Senate bill must somehow be merged with the House bill and then, I guess, pass both houses and be signed by the president. And, yes, I am embarrassed by my ignorance of how bills become laws.

I agree, we need to wait and see, but at the same time keep contacting our Senators and Representatives.

My hope is that the most unfair and unreasonable aspects will be corrected in the near future, as people figure out what they will and will not get from this.

All in all, it's better to have a framework for reform in place -- however weak -- than no foundation at all. We'll spend the rest of our lives listening to Congress argue its fine points, expand and tweak it.
As for the tanning bed tax, I applaud it. The main difference between tanning beds and cosmetic surgery is tanning beds promote cancer and, as far as I know, cosmetic surgery does not. Short of banning the industry outright, at least we can levy a tax that might be used to develop melanoma therapies and/or improve care during the last days of terminal skin cancer patients.

I don't think a it's right to 'mess' (mentally replace with appropriate Anglo-Saxon barbarism) around with people's lives. If even one life is lost because of our representatives' negligence, it's a sin and I hope they all rot in hell for it along with the leaders of the health care companies and lobbyists who engineered this travesty.

Mary Jamison...

You're not ignorant about how the bill progresses; you've got it exactly right.

The two John's from my State (McCain and Kyle) are aptly named. They are in the bed of the insurance industry.

(I do apologize to anyone named John; please remember that I was not the one who coined the slang term for a prostitute's customer.)

I want to throw something through the TV screen every time I hear a Republican distort and outright lie on what this bill will or won't do.

It's a lousy bill, but it is better than nothing and we must live with it until we elect different representatives. At best, it's a foot in the door. At worst, it's a boon for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The insurance companies are slavering over all those young healthy clients who will now be forced to buy health insurance.

Did anyone notice that the stock price of health insurance companies soared after the vote?

Go to this link and weep!!! We are being sold down the river, boys and girls!


The late-night vote was procedural to try and get the bill done before the Christmas break. No attempts at subterfuge, it's just the Senate rules requiring 30 hours for debate...

On cosmetic surgery: it isn't all face lifts and boob jobs; it's also repairing harelip and reconstruction of a face after disfiguring accident. Good call.

On whatever boost results for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies: at least they are likely to have to hire new employees to handle the improved business.

About the only prediction I feel confident to make right now is that, if you thought things got a little politically crazy as each of the bills has approached a vote, just wait for the merger sessions.

Happy Holiday Ronnie....we will see you when we return.

Poster wrote: "At worst, it's a boon for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries"

Got that right. Sad. If the house doesn't do something to stop this, it's a dud -- one we'll ALL be paying for without an ounce of difference in what we have now. Private medical insurance OWNS us, decides if we live or die. Pitiful. I'd almost rather pay the tax penalty than be FORCED to give money to the insurance companies in return for NOTHING.

What happened to OBAMA and his promises. This bill looks nothing like what he talked about in his pre/post election speeches. I BELIEVED HIM. I really thought/felt he would ACTUALLY HOLD HIS GROUND. I thought he was a different kind of politician. I am so disappointed in him and other Democrats, they turned tailed. I am so fed up with Republican and Democratic administrations. I think it's safe to say I have given up on this administration and politics. As far as I am concerned they can choke on that 2000 page bill.

I am with Donna, and after they choke, I hope they are refused medical care

The last two posts in particular sadden me. I assume them to be written by supposed progressives who are so disappointed in the Senate bill's shortcomings that they hope that their representatives and their President 'choke'. Sad.

Give me half a loaf. More importantly, give the people who will be helped by this imperfect bill, something, rather than let the industry lobbyists win when if this falls apart.

I cannot in good conscience support the bill that is on the books now.

Half-assed has always been unacceptable to Mama, and the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

This bill is already tainted with under-the-table bribes that says, in my book, it's time to scrap this crap and start over.

Get it right, you asswipe Congressional morons. Voters need to be extra vocal NOW. Tell your own elected officials they better get out of Dodge by sundown. And mean it.

As far as I can tell, the entire Congress needs to be given the Judge Roy Bean treatment.

Send 'em home with their tails between their legs.
Hell, go out into Main Street America and find some common-sensed small business people or dedicated charity volunteers with backbone to replace the smarmy army in DC.

It's time to clean HOUSE America.

(Fine words, but I know that's all they are. Apathy has come home to roost in America and likes its cushy position. Nothing will change. Sad, but realistic.

Alas, the same unwelcomed guest has been knocking at my own door.)

Before my husband died we spent more than our two story home would sell for in
health care costs uncovered by the health care system.
If you think I want a bill that does not have public support and option you are mistaken. It is time for the government to buy out the health care industry and make all health care publicly owned and controlled. No one should make profits off people who are ill or disabled.

I can live without the present health care plan limping its way through congress which leaves the health care industry in charge with profit making capability intact.

When will our congressmembers outlaw profit making from health care and become democratic leaders? We don't have democracy, we have
corporate control of this government. Congress is bought by Corporate Personhood which is free to lobby and dole out money to congressmembers. Don't you believe that it doesn't work.

If a Democratic president and Democratic Congress can't get it done, then we ought to name the Corporations King and remain the peons that we have already become.

This bill is rotten to the core and is not true health care reform. I shudder to think what legislation will be left after negotiations combining the House and Senate bills.

I find singling any one state out to receive benefits other states will not,to be selfish, immoral and should be illegal. I wish the people of Nebraska would look beyond their own interests, tar and feather their Senator, then ride him out of the Senate on a rail. Maybe other legislators will be so incensed they'll insist all other states be granted the same benefits as Nebraska in the final legislation.

I do not trust the insurance companies to provide reasonable affordable rates for those mandated to buy ins. and those who can afford the rates will pay through the nose -- the ever-dwndling middle class. Sacrificing so insurance companies can profit even more is blackmail.

How many more amendments are they going to slip into this bill to rape the citizens? Is it possible this final bill could have re-inserted, by some means, features to give the bill true legitimacy? I think we're stuck with it.

I know my Republican Representative, David Drier, is going to continue to sit on his hands as so many others have instead of being part of the process (means he's part of the problem.) Still, contacting him and my Demo. Senators might have some value beyond my need to express my views. Hope lots of others make their views known to their Reps, and Senators.

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