The Senate is “jubilant” over finally coming to an agreement on their health care bill. The majority of Americans, unfortunately, are not celebrating this breakthrough. There are some items that people feel need to be changed in the proposed legislation. Namely:
1. Make health care affordable: The Senate bill does not make health care affordable in the workplace, which would encourage employers to hire part-time workers and offer bare-bones, benefits. The House bill does; it requires all but the smallest employers to contribute a fair amount to good coverage for their workers.
For the self-employed or individuals in between jobs, both bills need improvement on affordability. The Senate bill does not do enough to make coverage affordable for low-and-moderate income families and the House does not do likewise for middle-income families. The final bill should combine the best of both.
2. Hold insurance companies accountable: The final bill must include strong consumer protections and insurance regulations for all consumers, and give the federal government responsibility for running the new insurance marketplaces. Generally, the House bill is better, but we need Congress to pick the strongest provisions from both bills to be sure that everyone with insurance benefits from strong consumer protections. The final bill should also give us the choice of a national public health insurance option that’s available on day one.
3. Fairly finance health care reform: The Senate bill taxes the health care benefits of millions of workers to pay for health reform. By contrast, the House bill asks those who can most afford to pay their fair share to finance reform, as President Obama promised during his campaign.
4. Remove Language that Seeks to Re-Argue Roe v. Wade. In a press conference last night, Senator Nelson publicly stated that he has been fighting this issue [Roe v. Wade] for over 30 years. Leading up to the 2008 anniversary of Roe, the Guttmacher Institute released a report showing abortions in the US between 1974, when Roe was enacted, and 2004, had dropped dramatically. Of even greater significance, teenage abortion had dropped 50 percent. The report noted that over the past 30 years, abortion and abortion providers continue to steadily decline, based on better contraception practices, education on teenage pregnancy and abstinence. [See Before and After Roe]
5. Remove Individual Mandates. The mandate was premised on having a public option (or at least expansion of Medicare). Now that neither is in the bill, it would be a travesty to middleclass and low-income citizens to be subject to a mandate of any kind at the outset of health reform. Once a viable bill is in place and sufficient time has passed to allow for kinks to bubble up and the actual health care legislation to have an impact, then lawmakers can review the implementation of mandates based on substantive data.
After the Senate passes their health care bill, it will head into “conference” with the House bill. There, leaders from each branch of Congress, as well as the White House, will work to resolve the differences between the two bills and come up with something that can pass and be sent to the President’s desk.
Conference is an opportunity to stand up for the priorities listed above, and make sure the final bill guarantees quality, affordable health care, with the choice of a public health insurance option. The legislation that comes out of the conference will be sent to both houses of Congress for a final vote, and will require a majority in the House and 60 votes one more time in the Senate.
Since Senator Nelson and other moderate Democrats have consistently threatened to filibuster the bill if the bill changes and excludes the abortion language, or adds in a public option, should we go to reconciliation? What’s your take?