Despite months of bluster and disinformation from those who hope to maintain the status quo, 60 U.S. senators came together this Christmas Eve morning and voted to make health care available to virtually all Americans.
The House had passed its version of health care reform months earlier. Now the two legislative bodies will have to come together and agree to a blended version.
That blended version almost certainly won’t have a public option because it would require 60 votes in the senate to get one. But here’s what we can be assured of getting in any final combination of the two bills:
- Insurance companies will have to cover everyone – you can no longer be turned down due to pre-existing conditions.
- Insurance can’t be snatched away from you via “rescission” when you get sick, i.e., voiding the policy when you need it the most.
- There will be limits on how much more insurers can charge you as you get older.
- Your insurance won’t run out when you need it due to annual or lifetime caps.
- Most lower and middle-income people will get subsidies to help pay for insurance.
For those who say the senate bill doesn’t do enough, remember that getting this passed was a Herculean task. This is just the start of reform. Over the years, our lawmakers can continue to improve the bill, just as they’ve done with Social Security and Medicare. This is a long overdue beginning to regulating the health insurance companies, which have been given carte blanche for so many years.
The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that 58.4 million Americans were uninsured for at least part of the year and almost 32 million had been uninsured for more than a year. The situation will only get worse if we do nothing. As President Obama is fond of saying, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is a good bill. And it’s the best present that the U.S. Senate could give us this holiday season.
Merry Christmas to all.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH