Monday, December 21, 2009

One Step Closer to National Health Care

America is one step closer to providing health care to all its citizens following a 60-40 vote in the Senate early this morning. What conservatives fear most, and what liberals perhaps thought would never come to pass, might just become a reality. There's no telling now what other sorts of progressive, inclusive legislation the Obama administration can introduce if we pass the healthcare bill (ahem, DOMA, DODT).

In spite of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson's antics and the unanimous discontent of senate republicans, the $870 billion bill is moving forward toward a final vote this week, but not without some major adjustments.

Among the compromises the dems made to keep the bill alive: the government-run public healthcare option has been scrapped, the minimum age for Medicare will not go down to 55, and public funds will not be used to subsidize abortion.

As for costs, well, CNN says: "Individuals under both plans [House and Senate plans] would be required to purchase coverage, but the House bill includes more stringent penalties for most of those who fail to comply. The House bill would impose a fine of up to 2.5 percent of an individual's income. The Senate plan would require individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or face a fine of up to $750 or 2 percent of his or her income -- whichever is greater."

Both versions of the plan represent significant increases in income tax for the wealthy, and the demands on small business are quite hefty - "the Senate bill would require companies with more than 50 employees to pay a fee of up to $750 per worker if any of its employees relies on government subsidies to purchase coverage."(CNN) That's a lot of money, even for a company that can afford to have 50 people on their payroll. I guess none of the people who wrote this book have heard of "working under the table."

And then there's the issue of undocumented residents - what to do with them when they're sick or injured? That there is no provision in the bill for this group still smacks of the short-sightedness that has kept universal healthcare at bay for decades.

While the dems can withstand a little in-fighting and some name-calling from the republicans, if this bill doesn't pass then the whole course of the Obama administration could be derailed. Not that the President has lost his lustre, but Americans are a little less fired up nearly a year into his administration. Some of that is to be expected, but with the war effort being the mess that it is and unemployment still hovering at 10 percent, we need to see our president be able to exert some form of control on a major issue.

It all comes down to Tuesday's vote...

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