For now, it is the Senate version of the bill, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, that passed. This bill, despite popular rhetoric, is complete with over 200 amendments proposed by the Republican members of our Congress, despite not getting a single Republican vote. And, many Democrats in the House agreed to a yes vote knowing a bill of minor changes will be passed, too, and sent to the Senate to pass using the reconciliation process. Either way, it is a start we can work with, be proud of, and that will help millions of Americans get healthcare, stay healthy, and live better lives.
Despite the dirty politics that went along with the passing of this bill, and the cries from Progressives that it doesn't do enough, the bill does some wonderful things for healthcare in America, and does not do some of the things claimed by its opponents. And although some politicians and polls indicate the American people were largely unsupportive, many of the components of the bill are very popular. In a bullet point summary, here is what the newly passed healthcare reform bill does:
- Prohibits refusal of or cancellation of insurance based on a pre-existing medical condition;
- Prohibits insurance companies from charging different rates based on medical history or gender;
- Prohibits insurance companies from establishing life-time maximum insurance benefits;
- Repeals anti-trust law exemptions that health insurance companies previously enjoyed;
- Establishes minimum standards for health insurance policies;
- Requires most, but not all, employers offer health insurance to employees, or face monetary penalty;
- Restricts abortion coverage on government funded insurance plans;
- Expands Medicaid program;
- Subsidizes health insurance policies for families earning up to about $88,000;
- Creates a health insurance exchange for consumers to compare rates and policies;
- Creates a mandate that most Americans obtain health insurance, or face a monetary penalty;
- Increases Medicare tax on Americans earning over $200,000 or families earning over $250,000;
- Creates a tax on high priced, premium health insurance plans;
- Reduces fraud and abuse in Medicare;
- Requires small insurance companies spend 80% of premium dollars on medical costs, and large insurance companies spend 85% of premium dollars on medical costs.
Most of the above provisions are very popular among Americans. None speak of death panels, government take over of healthcare, and there is not even a public option. So, although it was a long hard battle between very divided factions, healthcare reform has what I hope is only a robust start, with more to come.
I believe that, despite some polls and criticisms of the plan, that Americans will quickly support this bill and its provisions; I hope it is before the mid-term election this fall!
To those who claim this bill violates their freedoms and liberties: Not worrying about how you or a loved one will pay for healthcare costs for an accident or illness, that is freedom; knowing that your health insurance can't be canceled or run out, that choices between food and doctors will less likely have to be made, that an illness will be caught earlier rather than later, extending quality of life, and that we are on the way towards a healthcare system that puts people before profits, that is liberty.