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November 9, 2009

We're Not There Yet, But Health-Care Legislation Takes Giant Step Forward

By Marta Steele

Some highlights of the newly passed HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act

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The affordable Health Care Act, introduced into the House of Representatives by Congressman John D. DINGELL (D-MI), the longest-serving Member of Congress ever, passed in the House yesterday (Saturday!) by a vote of 220-215. Co-sponsors included House veterans Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

If you think that's a slender margin, think again. According to today'sNew York Times, a minimum of 218 votes were required for it to pass. That means that three votes made the difference.

One of them came from a surprising source, a Louisiana Republican (AnhCao, R-LA), concerned with the pathetic state of health care in New Orleans but also attracted to the prohibition of funding for abortions. This decision really throws a monkey wrench into partisan solidarity, doesn't it?

And another of the nays came from an equally surprising source, considering his alignment with 39 Blue Dogs and the other 176 Republicans, Dennis Kucinich, possibly the most liberal Member of Congress ever. I hate to compare him with Lieberman and his latest apostasy. A lot of the Blue Dogs represent Republic districts and fear they won't be reelected next year if they didn't please their constituents on this landmark legislation.

Like many of us, and most of the choir I'm preaching to, Kucinich wanted single-payer health care that encompassed abortions. And the list doesn't stop there, but those are two of the salient points.

HR 3962 is 1,931 pages long on the Internet, double-spaced and in large, legible fontTimes New Roman or Georgia, maybe. It will cost $1.1 trillion over ten years.

The benefits of the bill far exceed the provisions offered by the Clinton legislation in 1993, according to theTimes.

According to theTimes also, Most employers would have to provide coverage or pay a tax penalty of up to 8 percent of their payroll. The bill would significantly expand Medicaid and would offer subsidies to help moderate-income people buy insurance from private companies or from agovernment insurance plan. It would also set up a national insurance exchange where people could shop for coverage.

It would fill the doughnut hole in Medicare Option D, a space in that coverage that extracts a few thousand dollars from those covered before they resume Medicare coveragethe amount you pay above $2,700 in drug costs and below $4,350 out of pocket, according to Hubpages.com.

There is a penalty for those who don't sign up for any insurancecoverage is available to 96 percent of the population.A penalty for those who use emergency rooms for both routine and catastrophic health care.What of the others? I'll have to read up on that, as Eisenhower used to tell the press. Illegal immigrants would not qualify, says Wikipedia. Perhaps also the billionaires? Now that would make sense. There will be an acute shortage of doctors, warns one Manhattan physician according to the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps enough to treat only billionaires?

To briefly summarize the nearly 2,000 pages, according to Opencongress.org:

it seeks to expand health care coverage to the approximately 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured by lowering the cost of health care and making the system more efficient. To that end, it includes a new government-run insurance plan (a.k.a. a public option) to compete with the private companies, a requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a ban on denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition and, to pay for it all, a surtax on individuals with incomes above $500,000."

A list of links to subjects of the bill appears at Thomas.loc.gov.

Here's what goes into effect immediately, according to:

1. BEGINS TO CLOSE THE MEDICARE PART D DONUT HOLE Reduces the donut hole by $500 and institutes a 50% discount on brand-name drugs, effective January 1, 2010.

2. IMMEDIATE HELP FOR THE UNINSURED UNTIL EXCHANGE IS AVAILABLE (INTERIM HIGH-RISK POOL) Creates a temporary insurance program until the Exchange is available for individuals who have been uninsured for several monthsor have been denied a policy because of pre-existing conditions.

3. BANS LIFETIME LIMITS ON COVERAGEProhibits health insurance companies from placing lifetime caps on coverage.

4. ENDS RESCISSIONSProhibits insurers from nullifying or rescinding a patient's policy when they file a claim for benefits except in the case of fraud.

5. EXTENDS COVERAGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE UP TO 27TH BIRTHDAY THROUGH PARENTS' INSURANCE Requires health plans to allow young people through age 26 to remain on their parents' insurance policy, at the parents' choice.

6. ELIMINATES COST-SHARING FOR PREVENTIVE SERVICES IN MEDICAREEliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program.

7. IMPROVES HELP FOR LOW-INCOME MEDICARE BENEFICIARIESImproves the low-income protection programs in Medicare to assure more individualsareable to access this vital help

8. PROVIDES NEW CONSUMER PROTECTIONS IN MEDICARE ADVANTAGE Prohibits Medicare Advantage plans from enrollees higher cost-sharing for services in their private plan than what is charged in traditional Medicare.

9. IMMEDIATE SUNSHINE ON PRICE GOUGINGDiscourages excessive price increases by insurance companies through review and disclosure of insurance rate increases.

10. CONTINUITY FOR DISPLACED WORKERSAllows Americans to keep their COBRA coverage until the Exchange is in place and they can access affordable coverage.

11. CREATES NEW, VOLUNTARY, PUBLIC LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE PROGRAMCreates a long-term care insurance program to be financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become functionally disabled.

12.HELP FOR EARLY RETIREESCreates a $10 billon fund to finance a temporary reinsurance program to help offset the costs of expensive health claims for employers that provide health benefits for retirees age 55-64.

13. COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERSIncreases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for a doubling of the number of patients seen by the centers over the next 5 years.

14. INCREASES NUMBER OF PRIMARY CARE DOCTORS.

According to ChuckL, atWashingtonwatch.com, The fact that the Constitution does NOT grant to congress the power to create or pass this legislation should have been the first and final point. FDR had something to say about that and was working on a constitutional amendment, a bill of rights of all Americans for health care and basic other sustenance, including employment, housing, and food, when he died. (I can't find a source on the Internet to verify this.) Eleanor's amazing Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 embraces this inArticle 25, Section 1: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services. . . .

Less than 24 hours after passage of the bill, and maybe even sooner, the Internet began to swell with irresistible offers ofplans that are legit and can't be beat.

There's so much more to say about this flawed yet inchoate step in the direction of tending to our tired, poor, huddled masses yearning for what every person is entitled to, according to the U.N. declaration. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, in the process of rebuilding Western Europe after World War II, the United States established universal health care in Germany, first of all countries. What a stunning gesture. Who left us out in the cold?

I'll end with a quote from JohnConyers,head of the House Judiciary Committee who I feared would not support the bill, right after it was passed. He certainly wanted more than what was called a diluted form of the public option. The press release is titledHouse Health Care Bill Will Save Lives While Fight for Single Payer Continues:

"Today, I joined my Democratic colleagues in support of the Affordable Healthcare for America Act.While the bill is far from perfect, I supported it because it will expand access to health insurance to 96 percent of Americans, end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, help our seniors by closing the prescription drug benefit donut hole, and increase competition and choice with a public insurance option.

In the near term, these reforms will improve and save American lives while we continue to fight for single payer health care at the state and national levels. I will vote for this bill because the cost of inaction is too high.Each year, 44,000 people die because they do not have access to insurance. Without reform, this number will rise, Americans will be at greater risk of losing their coverage, and our business community will continue to fall behind international competitors as their future profits are drained by burdensome health care costs."



Submitters Website: http://www.wordsunltd.com

Submitters Bio:

Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for Opednews.com since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, 2000-2008" (Columbus, Free Press) and a member of the Election Integrity movement since 2001. Her original website, WordsUnLtd.com, first entered the blogosphere in 2003. She recently became a senior editor for Opednews.com. She has in the past taught college and worked as a full-time as well as freelance reporter. She has been a peace and election integrity activist since 1999. Her undergraduate and graduate educational background are in Spanish, classical philology, and historical and comparative linguistics. Her biography is most recently listed in "Who's Who in America" 2019 and in 2018 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who.

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