The ink is barely dry on President Obama‘s 20-pen signature on health reform, and the legislation has already gone from “Red-hatched scourge” to “pretty sweet deal” in the glazed-over eyes of John and Jane Q. Public.
Dems are understandably excited about a USA Today/Gallup poll showing that 49 percent of Americans are pleased with the bill’s passage. Not as enthusiastic as they are about the upcoming “American Idol” finals, but hey, the arc of history bends slowly towards. . . something.
Interestingly, I’ve been doing some special secret ninja work on this very issue as part of my job. So I feel somewhat up to speed on what this legislation stands to accomplish and where it falls short.
What I’m about to say is my personal opinion, which probably doesn’t amount to a pile of overpriced prescription medication.
There’s some praise-worthy stuff in this bill. It sets rules for the health insurance industry, which has historically not operated in its clients’ best interest. Or for that matter, the rest of Americans who have committed the cardinal sin of having not been aborted.
Setting aside theoretical cost controls and potential deficit reduction, health care reform will provide tangible benefits to Americans. So, before we get into the main problems, lets look at the good parts.
The legislation bans insurance companies from rejecting people based on pre-existing conditions. This is huge. Here’s a scenario for you: you have a job with pretty good insurance, but your boss is a total asshole, and you’ve been looking for another gig. But you have a sneaking suspicion that there’s something up with your health. You’re afraid to go to the doctor because you might land your dream job and have to switch insurance, but the new provider could refuse you coverage due to the condition you suspect you may have. Before the pre-exclusionary ban, this was the math that working Americans had to do.
Likewise, the old system kept entrepreneurs from striking out on their own and pursuing their vision in an open marketplace. Locking up ideas is hardly an American virtue. This will hopefully no longer be the case as the new laws go into effect.
Young people will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Previously, kids were kicked off their folks’ plans at age 19 or when they finished college. In an economic downturn, this will be a major relief for new generations entering a decimated jobs market. Of course, there’s nothing saying their parents’ plans will be cheap. But it’s better than going without.
There’s a catastrophic coverage option for young people that kicks in in 2014. This is good, too, because healthy whippersnappers might only require this kind of insurance.
State-run insurance exchanges will offer “affordable” policies to individuals and small businesses who otherwise may not have had access to coverage that fit their budgets. OK, so define “affordable.” We’ll have to wait to see what that means, as the exchanges don’t start until 2014 (for the time being, there are temporary programs for qualifying individuals who have difficulty obtaining coverage). Exchanges might not be as robust as a “government option,” but they will provide a safety net to a lot more folks.
Then there’s all the stuff about closing “doughnut holes” for older people, but I prefer not to think about old folks’ holes.
Now lets look at the suck factor.
The American version of health care is deeply flawed. If you care to do the math, you’ll find that a single-payer, fully government-funded system would actually be cheaper (and about a gazillion times easier from a bureaucratic perspective). But that’s socialism, so we dare not mention it, lest the Tea Partiers call us homosexual, baby-killing N-words.
In our desperate quest to insure that powerful lobbying interests maintain a comfortable status quo, we have arrived at a typically American hybrid system that sorta-kinda improves conditions for citizens while handing more power and money to the private sector.
See, the insurance industry just got the sweetest deal ever AND the right to piss and moan about it.
To strip the pre-exclusionary clause, private insurers needed a means by which to balance risk. The only way to do that is to mandate coverage. Which is why, by 2014, pretty much all Americans will be required to carry health insurance. And guess what? The vast majority of them will be perfectly healthy! That means the insurance companies’ risk actually goes down, while their roster expands! And what do we get in return? Certainly not a guarantee that premiums won’t continue to go up. Hey, at least they won’t be able to drop us anymore for getting sick.
So congrats to the administration for accomplishing its primary domestic initiative. Truly, it’s a “big fucking deal,” as Vice President Biden so colorfully noted. And it does improve the Dems’ reelection odds.
Pay attention to these pearls of wisdom: THERE IS NO WAY THE GOP CAN REPEAL THIS LEGISLATION. Do not bother listening to the bluster from the right. It’s simply not possible, even if they won EVERY open seat from now until 2012. And don’t get me started on the state-mounted Constitutional challenges. Good luck litigating on the premise of government coercion when the mandate doesn’t kick in for four years, at which point the benefits will have become so apparent to “Real Americans” that rescinding them will be tantamount to treason. And I’d LOVE to see Republican candidates running on a platform that would bring back the pre-ex clause. Go ahead, make my day, twerps.
So yeah, it’s a victory. Of sorts. And it’s nice that a solid number of Americans can recognize the positives. Now let’s get some immigration reform and some education reform and whatever other political fights that will take us straight up ’til the next presidential election, at which point any sane human being will have fled to a reasonable country like Iraq.