It took Barack Obama 13 months in office to finally go public with the health care plan he wants.
It’s pretty much the Senate bill, with a few improvements from the House bill, and a new government authority to regulate insurance rates.
It gets rid of the donut hole on prescription drugs for the elderly—by the year 2020.
It provides $11 billion for community health centers over the next five years.
It will cover adult dependents until they reach the age of 26, starting within six months of enactment.
It lets more people get covered by Medicaid (those at 133% of the poverty line or below), but they’ll have to wait until 2014 to start. The federal government will pay 100% of this new coverage only from 2014-2017, and then 95% of it in 2018 and 2019, and then 90% from 2020 on. So states will eventually have a big incentive to scrimp on this coverage.
The bill says it will eliminate discrimination against children with preexisting conditions within six months of enactment, but adults will have to wait for this ban to take effect until 2014.
And it says it will outlaw rescissions, but the White House hasn’t made clear whether it retains the language from the Senate bill that still allowed insurers to drop patients for “misrepresentation” or “fraud,” which is how the companies usually justify rescissions anyway.
The bill also retains the odious Senate limitations on abortion coverage.
And it contains no public option whatsoever, much less Medicare for all who want it.
So it leaves the private insurance industry in the saddle, and it corrals the uninsured into their stables.
The coverage some people will get could be skimpy. “More akin to a hospital gown than a warm winter coat,” as the group Physicians for a National Health Plan characterized the Senate bill. The same holds true for Obama’s bill.
The big political question remaining is whether Obama will have the spine to push his bill through via reconciliation, or whether he’ll still try to placate a few Republicans.
We may know the answer to that one by the end of this week.
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.