While most of us were still asleep, the United States Senate passed landmark legislation to reform health care. The legislation moves the country closer to the largest expansion of medical coverage since Medicare more than four decades ago. On a 60-39 party line vote the Senate concluded months wrangling to craft the Senate bill. The $879 billion proposal, is far from perfect, and still must be reconciled with the House bill in conference committee.
Newsweek has this side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate bills:
There is good stuff in both of these bills. But merging them into one piece of legislation will be more difficult that herding cats. Those of us who want to see any change in our current health coverage system will need to spend the next couple weeks encouraging the House and Senate leaders to keep the good stuff, and flush the bad. Among those good things that need to be prioritized and kept is a strong public option. One that provides the necessary competition to encourage health insurance companies to reduce the costs of medical coverage. A bill that establishes a mandate for coverage without a public option is simply unacceptable. The option for states to opt-out of theÂ proposed “Insurance Exchange”Â system and develop their own single-payer system, must remain in the final bill and be strengthened to take effect immediately rather than years after the exchanges are established.
The Senate’s excise tax on high-end health plans must go, as must the House provision regarding abortion coverage. The funding for community health centers that is in both bills needs to be funded at the $14 billion level in the House version. The final bill must prohibit insurance companies from basing their premium costs on individual risk and allow premium adjustments only based upon age andÂ geography.
Like I’ve said the legislation is far from perfect but, if we can keep the good and dump the bad, we’re on our way towards joining the rest of the industrialized world by ensuring that our people have affordable basic health care coverage.