House Passes Health Care Reform Bill

The House passed its version of health care reform. After adding a whole bunch of amendments that do little in terms of addressing the affordability of health care, but let Representatives stand up and tell everyone how fabulously moral they are, or some other such drivel. In the end, it ended up a lot like how the economic stimulus package went earlier this year. GOP lawmakers wanted a bunch of changes, Dems went along, and then the very people who demanded the changes to the bill refused to vote for it. Not that Democrats have been much better. The whole exercise has been partisan politics at its “finest”, with pundits thrown in on both sides to muddy the waters and make things complicated.

The House health care reform bill, among other things, offers these major “highlights”:

  • Most Americans need to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
  • Employers with payrolls of $500,000 or more must provide health insurance.
  • Insurance companies can’t deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
  • Income tax surcharge on couples making more than $1 million a year, or singles making more than $500,000.
  • Public option plan by 2013.

Now, I like the idea of a public option. As long as it provides competition. Because right now, it’s hard to find competition in health insurance. We pay more per person for health care than any other developed country, and our health care is only #37 in the world. It’s rather telling. However, for the most part, I think that health care reform has been bogged down a great deal by partisan politics. I know that we will probably never see a single payer system here in the U.S. But I am in favor of something like what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts, with an option including premiums based on a sliding scale according to ability to pay. And the man managed to balance the state budget as well. That’s something we could use.

As it is now, though, I don’t think that requiring people to get health insurance is going to do anything to limit the costs. Providing tax credits or some other something won’t help rein in costs, either. On top of that, I don’t like the idea of an income tax surcharge. I would, honestly, gladly pay $2,000 or $3,000 more in my own income taxes to get access to universal health care with a reasonable co-pay. Hell, I could go $4,000. That is something doable. (And, it would save me money. Since I will now be paying $500 a month with the new age-based premium that kicks in with my husband and I crossing the 30-year mark.) But I don’t like the idea of hitting some people with a 4.5% surcharge. And I dislike that this plan continues to reinforce the connection between your job and your health insurance.

Overall, I think this is a mostly useless piece of legislation that will do very little, on a practical level, to actually change things. Unfortunately, though, a true overhaul of health care would be time consuming, and our leaders lack the political will. Not to mention the fact that they — and the pundits — have us so divided on the issue that we can’t even unite to demand that our leaders stop worrying about the health insurance lobby and get something done for We the People.

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