Senate health “reform” bill: Pro insurance profits, anti abortion rights

bennelson_meeting

Sen. Nelson and President Obama agree on health plan that denies coverage to millions and increases restrictions on abortions.

Just a few moments ago, the U.S. Senate wrapped up its Christmas present for working people. After months of debate, the Senate passed a health care “reform” bill Christmas Eve. The gift is worse than a lump of coal; it’s a stab in the back!

Among the vacuous campaign promises made by President Obama was the pledge to reform the health care system to provide “high-quality health care for all Americans.” President Obama’s health care plan, which the U.S. Senate approved at 7:15 a.m. this morning, actually is a blueprint for enriching the insurance and pharmaceutical industries and further restricting women’s right to abortion services.

The Senate bill, like the companion bill already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on November 7, mandates individuals to purchase insurance through a “health insurance exchange.” The Senate plan will force 30 million uninsured people to purchase private insurance — leaving nearly 20 million other uninsured people still without health care coverage. The increase in insurance premiums is welcomed by the insurance industry, and the pharmaceutical firms look forward to the increased revenue from new drug sales.

Individuals may qualify for a government subsidy to help pay their insurance premiums, which means that billions of dollars of public money will be funneled into the coffers of the insurance companies and drug manufacturers. This increased revenue for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries will come from huge cuts in Medicare and increased taxes. Medicaid will be expanded to cover more people.

The mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance will squeeze working people hard. In the House bill, the government subsidies will be adjusted so that individuals will pay anywhere from 1.5% to 12% of their income as health insurance premiums. The penalty for not purchasing health insurance is that you must then pay 2.5% of your income into the plan. The Senate bill stipulates a penalty of 2% of one’s annual income. (For a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate bills, see this site provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Also, the House bill stipulates that those under age 65 with annual incomes below $18,700 for a couple or $9,350 for an individual will be exempted from the mandate. The Senate bill says that those whose incomes are less than 100% of the poverty level (annual income of $11,201 for an individual or $21,834 for a family of four) will be exempted from the mandate. These provisions, in today’s economy, mean that millions will be uncovered by this insurance plan. As the lowest-paid workers, African Americans and Latinos will be the hardest hit by these provisions. (Nearly half of Detroit workers, for example, are unemployed.) Undocumented workers, who disproportionately lack health insurance, would be ineligible for subsidies to pay for private health insurance; thus, they continue to be denied access to decent health care.

The supposed benefits of the new health care legislation are meager at best. Millions of people will remain uninsured. The touted reform to eliminate pre-existing health conditions as an excuse to deny health insurance coverage does, in fact, provide insurance for these people. However, the Senate bill allows insurers in the exchanges to charge three times as much for the elderly and others with chronic medical conditions than they charge younger and healthier customers. So, the so-called health care reform bill is really a boondoggle for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

The Senate bill is also an attack on women’s right to abortion. The proposed legislation allows states to prohibit the coverage of abortions by insurers in their exchanges. The bill is a pro-insurance, pro-pharmaceutical industry and anti-abortion bill; it has nothing to do with providing “high-quality health care to all Americans.”

Part of the deal brokered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to win the support of the bill from Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson is an agreement that no major changes will be made to the Senate bill in conference. Therefore, the major provisions of the Senate bill are likely to become law. As a result, millions of people will be denied health coverage, millions more will be forced to reduce their incomes by buying private health insurance, billions of public dollars will be channeled into the hands of private owners of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and abortion rights will be further restricted. A Christmas present working people will want to return for sure.

Thursday, December 24th, 2009 at 07:18