Editorial

Health Care for All

May, 2010

Health care is something we believe must be available to everyone at a cost that they can afford. However, the recently passed healthcare bills are a classic example of democracy gone wild. The miracle of the bills is not that they passed at all, but that there is something in them for everyone to hate. It's government by equal opportunity dissatisfaction.

Those who wanted the "public option" of a government run health insurance didn't like the bill because the public option wasn't included. Those who wanted to keep their existing plans didn't like the bill because they fear the mandates for business coverage will cause their employers to cut back on coverage or increase their contributions.

Those who wanted the removal of pre-existing condition exclusions or denials were disappointed also. While the bill prohibits insurers from denying claims due to pre-existing conditions, it does not prohibit them from refusing to sell new coverage due to pre-existing conditions or charging more to cover them.

Seniors who participate in Medicare Advantage, a private insurance program under Medicare, don't like the bill because of a cut in funding to the Advantage program.

Those who have been angry at private insurers controlling their medical decisions are angry with the bill because the bill doesn't change this. Rather, it provides a windfall to the private insurance industry by mandating that millions of Americans without health insurance buy new health insurance from private insurers.

Those who wanted to see the costs of health insurance curbed were disappointed that the bills do nothing to regulate the cost of the plans that insurers provide so that there is every reason to believe that health insurance costs will continue to rise. Contributing to this is the anti-trust exemption that the health care insurers have which was not removed in the new bills.

While the included reforms to student financial aid was a positive step in controlling the high costs of student financial aid which private banks have been unnecessarily profiting from, these financial aid reforms had no place in a health care bill and unnecessarily complicated an already complicated legislation.

A somewhat overlooked provision of the health care bills allows states to set up their own government run health insurance programs should they care to do so after 2014. But there is no guarantee that states that don't already have these programs will do this.

Still many questions remain unanswered with the current healthcare reform bill, which passed on March 22.

The public option, government-run health insurance, was not included in the final bill and most of the items in the bill don't take effect until 2014.

In 2014 the bill allows health insurance "exchanges" to be set up, which will allow for private insurance companies to compete under close government regulation. Currently, there are no standards in health insurance so when shopping for health insurance plans it is impossible to compare them. The exchanges, when they go into effect, will require plans to conform to government guidelines while still allowing insurance companies to offer less regulated plans in the private market.

There will be a phased in penalty for those individuals who don't buy the insurance. Small businesses will get a temporary rebate to help pay for the coverage they will be required to provide. However, part-time employees will still not be covered.

Health care also requires people to purchase health insurance from private insurers but doesn't provide any control on prices. In the past, private health insurance companies have had an exemption from anti-trust laws that has allowed them to share information and fix prices, but the new law does not remove the exemption.

People who have no money to buy insurance will see this new bill as a tax, though the bill provides subsidies for low income people and small businesses to help pay for their insurance.

The bill raises many objections regarding cutting costs to Americans for health insurance. The bill's supporters acknowledge that the main purpose of the bill is to make health insurance available to many more people. But the controversial measures needed to curb costs to consumers were not included in the bill. In fact, after the deregulation frenzy of the Reagan administration, it has been a rare occasion that congress has placed restraints on the operations of major corporations.

The one major step forward in the health care debate is that it has been finally acknowledged that the goal is to provide affordable health care to all. We aren't there yet, but maybe this is just a small step in that direction.

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