George Graham

Remember Health Care Reform? They’re Working on it

You remember way back in mid-2009 how Congress promised  to fix America’s crummy health care system? They’re working on it. Of course, I doubt that it matters all that much to anyone reading this blog. If you don’t live in America, you probably couldn’t care less about U.S. health care legislation. And if you do live in America and can afford a computer and a subscription to an internet service provider, you probably have health insurance anyway.giuliani

But you might welcome a break from the interminable chatter about the underpants bomber and the crazy lies people like ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (photo at right) are spreading to make former President Bush look like the Great American Protector and President Obama look like a sissy.

So here’s an update on the “reform” initiative. It’s from Yana Kunichoff, writing for a service called Truthout:

On the second day of closed door meetings with President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (photo below, left) said Congressional Democrats are nearing agreement on a merger of the Senate and House health care bills into a comprehensive piece of legislation.

nancyAs they say in Jamaica, the reform legislation “soon come, man.”

Of course, the bill that’s going to emerge from those closed door meetings is sure to be a big disappointment to just about everybody. The insurance companies and their political lackeys don’t want any government interference in the racket they’ve got going now. And there will be little to please reformers who worry about spiraling health insurance premiums, abusive insurance company practices and the 40,000-plus people who die in the U.S. every year because they don’t have health insurance.

This much is sure: The final bill will force all Americans to buy health insurance, the way drivers now have to buy auto coverage. That’s expected to give the insurance companies more than 30 million new customers, many of them young and healthy. In return… Well, there’s not much the companies have to give up in return.

reformThere are “restrictions” on such current abuses as refusing to enroll people who are already sick (known as a “preexisting condition” to people who like big words). But some experts say the companies will impose such high rates for sick people that they won’t be able to afford insurance anyway. And, no, there’s nothing in the bill to stop the insurers from doing that.

There’s a stipulation that the companies must devote a fair chunk of their revenue to actually paying for health care, but – again – people who know how the industry works say the rule is vulnerable to accounting sleight-of-hand.

On the plus side, the bill will provide subsidies to people who can’t afford to pay health insurance premiums. The details are too complicated to spell out in a blog, but, basically, the government is going to take some tax money away from old folks on Medicare Advantage and give it – on a sliding scale – to families making less than $90,000 a year. “Poor” people, in other words. (“Poor” in America is different from “poor” in Jamaica.)

And 30 million of the 50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance will be covered (whether they like it or not). I have no idea why the other 20 million are not getting coverage.

The legislation will expand Medicaid (free health care for the really, really poor), so some real reform is included. And, naturally, that will be at taxpayers’ expense. It seems some of the money will come from taxing “Cadillac” health plans. I know, bizarre. Here’s a law that’s supposed to expand health insurance coverage and it’s penalizing people who already have good insurance.

People like union members.They’re among the ones who will be hit hardest. Naturally, the unions are outraged. They gave up wage increases to get those health benefits and now the Democratic Party that they helped elect is taxing the benefits. You can imagine what the unions leaders will tell Democrats who ask for campaign contributions later this year.

arnoldIn sum, yes there’s probably going to be a health reform bill that the president will sign. And, yes, it will come this year (if for no other reason than the elections scheduled in the fall). But, no, it will not be popular. It’s the kind of compromise legislation that gets everybody teed off.

Even California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (photo at right), one of the few Republicans who had kind words to say about the reform initiative, has turned against it. He is calling the expected legislation a “trough of bribes, deals and loopholes.”

That’s harsh, Arnold, but not too far from the truth.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com