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Health Care Bill PASSES

HuffPost- First Posted: 03-21-10 10:59 PM   |   Updated: 03-22-10 09:12 AM

With additional reporting by Sam Stein.

After more than a year of virulent debate, Democrats marched through a throng of jeering protesters, whose slurs recalled a Washington of the 1960s — when the party forced civil rights legislation and Medicare through a fiercely divided Congress. Against unified Republican opposition, they built on that foundation Sunday with the passage of a health care reform bill that extends coverage to 32 million Americans and tightly regulates the insurance industry.

“It is with great humility and with great pride that we tonight will make history for our country and progress for the American people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the vote to a standing ovation on one side of the aisle and silence on the other. “Just think–we will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare, and now tonight, health care for all Americans.”

Democrats passed two pieces of legislation. The first, a comprehensive reform package passed at the end of December by the Senate, now goes to President Obama for his signature, passing the House 219-212. The second piece, passed through the reconciliation process by a 220-211, makes fixes to that measure and now heads to the Senate for a final vote.

Watch yesterday’s health care debate condensed into 10 minutes:

VIDEO AND MORE HERE

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As soon as health care passes, the American people will see immediate benefits. The legislation will:

  • Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
  • Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
  • Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
  • Lower seniors’ prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;
  • Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
  • Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
  • Require plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
  • Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
  • Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
  • Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.

By enacting these provisions right away, and others over time, we will be able to lower costs for everyone and give all Americans and small businesses more control over their health care choices.

Crossposted on the House Democrat’s blog.

SOURCE

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Crooks & Liars- By Susie Madrak Monday Feb 22, 2010 7:00am

This will be controversial, to say the least. I wonder on what legal grounds this will be asserted – and how long it will be before the insurance companies lobbyists stop it. (I also wonder why he didn’t support the public option, which would have been less directly interventionist than this, and thus, less politically risky.)

You can read the details here:

President Obama will propose on Monday giving the federal government new power to block excessive rate increases by health insurance companies, as he rolls out comprehensive legislation to revamp the nation’s health care system, White House officials said.

[…] The president’s bill would grant the federal health and human services secretary new authority to review, and to block, premium increases by private insurers, and it would create a new Health Insurance Rate Authority, comprised of health industry experts that would issue an annual report setting the parameters for reasonable rate increases based on conditions in the market.

The legislation would call on the secretary of health and human services to work with state regulators to develop an annual review of rate increases, and if increases are deemed “unjustified” the secretary or the state could block the increase, order the insurer to change it, or even issue a rebate to beneficiaries. States would be eligible for a portion of $250 million in grants to finance premium review and approval.

The new rate board would be composed of seven members, including consumer representatives, an insurance industry representative, a physician, and other experts such health economists and actuaries, the White House said. The board’s annual report would offer guidance to the public and states on whether rate increases should be approved.

The corporatist-friendly RAND think tank issued a 2004 report on a similar proposal in California, warning of unintended consequences:

This issue brief evaluates why health insurance premiums are rising and examines the potential long-term consequences of regulating premium costs, using examples from other insurance products such as automobile coverage and workers compensation. The findings underscore that if health care costs continue to rise while premiums are frozen, stringent rate regulation could lead to undesired consequences. These include:

* In the short term, insurers could balance their losses by reducing the quality or quantity of care — or both.
* Insurers could discourage unhealthy consumers from enrolling in plans, thus increasing the number of uninsured over time.
* If costs continue to rise and premiums are fixed, insurers may exit the market entirely.
* Over the longer term, regulation could discourage expensive treatments and technologies, no matter how beneficial, from coming to market. (A desirable related consequence is that premium regulation could motivate the introduction of cost-saving technologies.)

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If it wasn’t for the fact that the Washington media establishment is gamed in favor of Republicans, it’s very likely that they would have long since been relegated to nothing more than a LaRouche-style crackpot cult, handing out mimeographed pamphlets outside the post office.

How else, other than via the self-conscious deference afforded it by the press, do the Republicans get away with issuing the following two press releases within a single 24 hour span:

Sunday: “Cutting Medicare is not what Americans want.”

Monday: “Expanding Medicare a plan for financial ruin.”

In case you’re wondering, these statements didn’t come from one of the many far out wingnuts like Steve King, Michele Bachmann or Virginia Foxx (Medicare recipient). They were, in fact, dispatched from Senate Minority Leader (And Real-Life Albino Sleestak) Mitch McConnell’s office. Yes, the highest ranking Republican in Congress wrote-up both headlines, ostensibly proof-read and unapologetically shoved into the public record.

Two press releases that exactly contradict each other. Yet I’m a little disappointed that Mark Halperin and Chuck Todd didn’t fire off tweets about how the opposing headlines were “bad news for Obama.” After all, every Republican gaffe is somehow “bad news for Obama.” And so they get away with it.

As we have observed over the years, this Republican contradiction problem has been a feature of modern Bush Republicanism for a while now, but it’s only during the past year that the gap between contradictory statements — let’s call it the Wingnut Gap — has narrowed down to just 24 hours. Prior to this week, it took several years for, say, the Republicans to contradict their “criticizing the commander-in-chief during wartime undermines the troops” mantra, or for Glenn Beck to accuse the Obama administration of being Maoists then to inexplicably suggest that America needs to be more like the Chinese.”

Say nothing of the contradictions evident in Sarah Palin’s America-hating commie Castro headgear:

And don’t give her the benefit of the doubt on this, either. She’s not smart enough to wear it with deliberate irony.

But this is a dynamic that’s most prevalent when the Republicans discuss Medicare. It really flummoxes them. After all, they despise socialized medicine. They despise single-payer health insurance. They despise government-run health care. They voted against the formation of Medicare during the high water mark of LBJ’s Great Society. They ultimately would love to privatize (or drown in a bathtub) the whole thing and be done with it.

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Over the weekend, I took a rainy walk down Wall Street and through the financial district in lower Manhattan. As I navigated my way across the busy intersections and between the arrays of decorative sidewalk bollards, I noticed something really strange.

No protesters.

None, despite the fact that within that very space, the near destruction of the world economy was detonated, igniting one of the deepest recessions in American history and accompanied by 500,000 job losses every month.

Not only was the district free of protesters, but I spotted a gaggle of grinning tourists merrily gathered on and around the famous “Charging Bull” statue. One woman was having her picture taken while crouched down and cupping the bull’s gigantic watermelon-sized brass testicles. Actually, you could say that there was at least one tea bagger downtown. But, you know, the wrong kind.

As I marveled at the incongruous serenity of the financial district, I couldn’t help but to wonder if all of this talk about massive job losses and a near-meltdown was an elaborate hoax, or whether Americans by-in-large simply don’t give a rip, choosing instead to continue on their merry way, acquiescing to a failed system rather than lashing out against the horrors of deregulatory Reaganomics, and, consequently, taking action against the real killers. In other words, while political participation appears to be cresting a wave, there’s still a considerable level of apathy about demanding accountability from the crooks who nearly screwed us all.

This apathy is especially evident in the health care crisis.

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There’s one positive political aspect to this epic fight for health care reform. We now know for sure which congressional Democrats have to be vigorously challenged and defeated the next time they come up for re-election.

The health care reform debate has forced the toxic slag to gurgle to the surface and consequently revealed a few Democratic senators who, at every turn in this process, have proved to be far more interested in protecting their own asses by way of protecting the asses of their bosses in the health care mafia.

Suffice to say, Joe Lieberman has to be sending lots of “thank you” gift baskets and ponies and backrubs to the offices of Max Baucus and Kent Conrad. In fact, Baucus and Conrad — the matchstick men of health care reform — have been so insufferable, I almost forgot about Lieberman. Almost.

In fact, apart from the Republicans from whom we expected outlandish lies and cartoonish behavior, Baucus and Conrad have been much more obstructionist and damaging to real health care reform, chiefly because they possess a disproportionate level of power in relation to the nine people in the upper Midwest they represent, and because their ideas would be laughable if they weren’t so ineffectual and dangerous.

To wit: Baucus Plan is just as craptastical as we all suspected it might be.

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Yesterday, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) finally released a proposal for his committee’s health care reform bill — the framework for the eventual Senate Finance Committee legislation.

Predictably, the Baucus Plan is totally nightmarish. Naked on the subway while being accosted by prostitutes that resemble Chuck Grassley nightmarish. I’ve been writing about the terrible possibility of such a bill for several weeks, but now it’s actually beginning to take shape.

But first, because he’s not the most famous or likely political villain, here’s some background.

Baucus controls the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over any legislation that revolves around Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and health care in general. So the senator, as chairman, enjoys a remarkable degree of power considering that he only represents 960,000 people in Montana, one of the most sparsely populated states in the Union. And I’m fairly certain that if polled most Americans would say that Max Baucus is the guy who played Thurston Howell on Gilligan’s Island.

While the Baucus Plan would impose the usual syllabus of regulations on the health insurance industry, it also includes an individual mandate, making it compulsory for everyone to buy a health insurance plan. I get the idea: mandates are an important step to controlling costs and achieving a universal health care, but mandates should be accompanied by a public health insurance option in order to serve as an “option of good conscience” — an escape hatch for those of us who have moral objections to being forced under penalty of law to finance the corrupt insurance cartels.

And the Baucus Plan doesn’t offer a public insurance option.

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If you’re a reporter looking for a hot quote, Waxman’s the wrong man to see. Anyone watching his “Daily Show” appearance with Jon Stewart could tell you that. Waxman is all policy, determined to explain everything in detail. But he’s smart, tough and knows how to get results. He showed that last year when he went against the House seniority system and took over the Energy and Commerce Committee by unseating John Dingell, its longtime chairman.

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Bill Boyarsky
Truthdig
Aug 25 2009

By the time Congress returns from its recess and takes another whack at the health insurance mess, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., will have started revealing the deceit that protects health business profiteers.

Waxman has already begun by demanding that major insurance companies reveal how much they pay top executives and board members and, most important, the size of their profits from selling policies.

He is getting to the heart of the health insurance debate. It’s all about the health business—insurance, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, medical equipment makers and others.

Their economic goal is bigger profits. Their political goal is to protect their interests by making sure the 2010 election puts enough Republicans and sympathetic Democrats in Congress. Even if the Democrats retain control of the House and Senate, health care lobbyists will pour celebratory drinks as long they have enough power to shape legislation. That’s how it works. Don’t be deluded by party labels.

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