In case you haven't heard, health care reform finally passed, 219-212. Now Congress moves onto a much easier big ticket item: immigration reform! Unlike with health care reform, I'm sure racists and big business won't be able to find angles to work there....
Anyway, there's a lot of good in this bill, even though it doesn't change the fundamentals of America's health care system: most adults will still get coverage through marriage or their employer, most insurers will still operate effectively as monopolies, and Americans will still be vastly overpaying for health care because the looting of people's money won't stop. But more people will be covered as they're forced to buy insurance and fewer people will be denied coverage as insurers will no longer be allowed to rescind policies for pre-existing conditions that they only find once people get an expensive disease. Premiums will be capped, insurers won't be allowed to discriminate, and large employers will be forced to provide insurance.
But, unfortunately, using the reconciliation process did not get the public option passed. It passed with a majority in the House before and one would think that with 57 Democrats plus Sanders in the Senate it could have garnered at least 50 votes plus Biden. As I said right when Scott Brown won his Senate seat and everyone thought that the Senate would finally be forced to use reconciliation and could then pass the public option Democratic leadership said had between 50 and 60 votes, that plan depended on Democratic leadership actually wanting a public option. And they don't. And so it didn't pass.
The system will still be unfair to LGBT people as most LGBT provisions put forward by Tammy Baldwin got taken out. The Advocate is counting as the "only LGBT-specific provision" a part that will lower prescription drug costs to some low income folks with HIV/AIDS. But data collection got knocked out, as well as removing the unfair taxation of same-sex domestic partnership benefits, allowing low income HIV positive folks onto Medicaid, and creating a health care system that completely bypasses employment and the institution of marriage, since LGBT people have diminished access to both.
Even though there probably won't be another vote on health care for a few years, the fight for that last one stays alive. Alan Grayson is trying to get a vote on Medicare buy-in, a great idea if ever there was one. If everyone's being forced to buy insurance, there's no reason they should be forced to buy private insurance.
The right's riled up by this; they consider the passage of this bill illegitimate and I'm guessing we haven't seen anything yet. They still think there is single-payer and death panels embedded in the bill, mainly because they're predisposed to opposing this bill for various reasons and because they're being lied to constantly through various conservative media networks. But they do know that it passed with no Republican votes, that the bill is going to take their money and kill them, and that the government simply doesn't have the right to go and do something they don't approve of. That's a volatile mix.
Our new friend, the LGBT anti-discrimination policy-eliminating Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli, promises to sue the federal government to overturn part of the bill:
Cuccinelli, the Virginia attorney general, said today he also planned to sue the federal government, calling the health bill an "unconstitutional overreach of its authority.
"With this law, the federal government will force citizens to buy health insurance, claiming it has the authority to do so because of its power to regulate interstate commerce," he said in a press release. "We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person -- by definition -- is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate."
The states that say they will sue are Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
I have no idea if his argument has legal merit, but I do know that if there's something to it there's a sympathetic Supreme Court right now.
Although Cooch is very close to the part of this bill that's wrong: the fact that people everywhere are being forced to buy a private industry's product without even the option to buy it from the government. The solution isn't to just let people off the hook, though. The cost of health care decreases significantly if everyone, including people who don't think they're going to get sick, is insured. The solution is single-payer, although something tells me Cooch wouldn't be happy with that either.