Sunday, November 08, 2009
What I Like About the New Health Care Bill
Of course no piece of legislation is perfect, and quite frankly I personally wanted something far more radical and yes, "socialistic", than this current bill (which, despite what you'll hear from the Right, bears almost no resemblance to anything that could justifiably be labeled "socialism"). Nonetheless, I am very excited that the House finally passed an honest to goodness health care reform bill that seems to actually have some decent features that will directly make life better for me and my family. I haven't looked closely at every aspect of this bill yet, so I can't speak to all of its shortcomings (of which it's sure to have many), but here are a few of the things I like about it:

1) A public option, which, besides creating real competition that will force insurance companies to actually serve their clients better, will also give folks to chance to opt-out of the crappy private system if they want to, and stop sending 30% or more of our premiums to line the pockets of insurance company shareholders.

2) Creates a health insurance exchange that will enable individuals like me who don't get insurance through an employer to get the same benefits that group buyers do.

3) Caps out-of-pocket expenses, which for me and my family can currently be more than $20,000 annually.

4) Prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, which is the major reason Julie and I currently have absolutely no choice in which health insurance we use and therefore no recourse whenever Humana decides to screw us over. If other insurers would cover us, we could shop around for a better plan and actually let the market work the way it's supposed to.

5) Subsidies to help poor Americans get coverage - another measure that might benefit my family directly, since, as a graduate student, I currently have very little actual income. I also think that, whatever other nice features the bill offers, the most important thing is making sure that the millions of people who can't currently afford health care are in fact covered. No one should have whether they live or die or can live healthily be determined by how much money they (or their parents) make.

6) An amendment to keep federal funds from covering abortions (though individuals still have the right to pay for their own abortion coverage). While I know most liberals won't like this one, I for one am glad that this issue will be taken off the table and therefore cannot be used as a red-herring by the Right to block the entire bill. I also think its fair that those of us who disagree with the practice of abortion shouldn't have to have our tax dollars used to pay for them.

Anyhow, here's to hoping these features survive in the Senate's version of it. It's exciting to think that something might actually happen with all of this. That substantial change for the better is in fact possible.


posted by Mike Clawson at 10:00 PM | Permalink |


At 11/08/2009 11:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

To bad it won't get passed the Senate. It's looking pretty badly. I do hope that maybe someone else will pick up the ball and continue the fight after it's denied. We NEED reform and we shouldn't give up. I don't think they'll let this go, and I hope they'll look at all sides and try to work with everyone. Republicans had many, many good points, and the Democrats were the ones to actually go through with this change (which is very brave)and initiate the big picture.


At 11/09/2009 12:53:00 AM, Anonymous Miko

My thoughts run more with Kucinich's analysis. Of course, his desired alternative is single-payer whereas mine is free-market reform, but I can definitely agree with him that (a) this bill is (at least marginally) worse than what we have now and (b) for all the faults I see with it, single-payer could hypothetically be better than what we have now.

The one thing I really don't like about it is individual mandates. Insurance companies have been fighting for decades to get these and it's pretty clear that forcing people to buy insurance no matter what it costs isn't a good incentive to keeping costs down.

Regarding your point (4), you should note that the bill also exempts the insurance companies from many types of lawsuits, so while they are required to keep accepting premiums from you without regard to pre-existing conditions, you'd have basically no recourse if they decided to deny any treatment anyway.

Regarding (6), the Right won't need to tip-toe around why they're voting against this. The most recent polls I've seen say that most members of the public expect their coverage to become both more expensive and worse because of this bill (I think they're right about the expensive part and couldn't say about the quality part), so the Right doesn't really need an excuse.

This kind of thing is what scares me most about a bill like this, as a government-subsidized "public" option can underperform private rivals and still offer lower costs due to taxpayer subsidies, leading to an eventual government takeover of the health care system (to an even more extreme degree than we already have). At that point, we get a de facto ban on abortions, birth control, contraceptives, HPV vaccines, HIV testing, and anything else conservatives decide to be against (as well as the things the loony-left is against, such as vaccinations in general) pushed through with rhetoric to the effect of "no, we're not banning it; we're just saying that the public shouldn't have to pay for it (and that private individuals shouldn't be able to pay for it)."


At 11/11/2009 12:51:00 PM, Blogger John Mahan

Just curious where you are getting the 30% from #1. As I understand it, there are many non-profit insurance companies, which means 0% is going toward shareholders, right?
So is that 30% a worst case, or an average?


At 11/11/2009 11:47:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I don't have a link to the exact figures John. It's just something I've read in numerous articles - that among private insurance companies, an average of 30% of every dollar spent for health care goes to overhead costs for the insurance company (including shareholder profits where applicable), as compared to single-payer government plans in other countries where, on average, about 10% of every dollar spent goes to administrative overhead.

At any rate, I don't know if these "non-profit" insurance companies are any better at keeping their overhead costs down than the for-profit ones, but I don't see how it really makes a difference since as of right now, the vast majority of Americans don't get any say in what insurance provider they have to use anyhow. It's either chosen for them by their employer, or (as in our case) their options are severely limited by various pre-existing conditions. This is not a free-market system since the vast majority of consumers have no choice in the matter. So, as I see it, the public option, the insurance exchange, and the lifting of pre-existing conditions exclusions are all measures that will serve to give us, the consumers, more options and more choices - at letting free market principles finally come into play for once, at least to a limited but still relatively greater degree than they are now. In that respect, you could almost call this a "Republican" style plan. It's certainly a lot less than what most liberals were hoping for, which should make all y'all conservatives happy.