User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: Health Care Bill Passes In Washington, a Momentous Occasion

"Our Liberties We Prize, Our Rights We Will Defend."

Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Health Care Bill Passes In Washington, a Momentous Occasion

Finally after almost a century of effort, a national health care bill was signed into law which will guarantee nearly universal access to healthcare.  (I say nearly universal, because the bill exempts the Amish and similar religious groups which provide from their members from having to purchase health insurance.  By the way, they have long been exempted from having to participate in Social Security either).

The Republicans fought the bill tooth and nail saying that it will increase the national debt to unmanagable levels. This begs the question, is the problem that the bill will increase the national debt or is it really that it will increase healthcare costs for employers by encouraging them to do what they should have been doing along - providing adequate health insurance for their workers as part of their job benefits.

What the bill does is requires that all people under 65 have a health insurance policy, either purchased individually, or through their employer.  Various incentives and sanctions are provided to see that this actually happens.  Individuals without health coverage will eventually be fined $695 per year,  Larger employers that fail to provide health coverage will be fined $2,000 per worker.  Insurance companies will no longer to refuse coverage or base rates on preexisting conditions.  Rates may only vary based on age, tobacco use, or geographic location.  Also, insurance policies can no longer contain rate caps which cause the insurance to run out when a person has an expensive catistropic condition.   The federal government will regulate policy rates, to insure that insurance companies to not use the mandatory purchase requirement to gouge customers.  Government subsidies will be offered to small businesses and low income individuals, so they can afford to by coverage.

Simple enough.  You think you are healthy and don't need insurance, pay the $650 fine with your tax return.  Nobody will bother you any more.  (This is being done to give an incentive to people to buy now rather than waiting until they come down with a serious health condition.)

Looks like Obama is a good egg and everybody should be dancing in the streets.  No, the Tea Party is threating to throw out of office anybody who voted for this "terrible" bill.  I think the real problem is that the Republican party is run be business interests who are more concerned about operating costs than they are about the man on the street.

Will the bill cost the federal government billions?  Sure.  But to say that it will cost New Jersey taxpayers extra is a matter of debate.  Because today, if an uninsured person gets sick, all they have to do is go to the emergency room and they will be treated.  The doctor and hospital get paid through Charity Care, a state program funded by state taxes.  Basically what this does is have individual taxpayers subsidize businesses that don't provide health insurance.  With national health care, some of this burden would come off state taxpayers and get passed on to employers and the federal government.

The new system will be a cheaper way to provide care to the currently uninsured.  With health insurance, they will now be able to go to private physicians that can keep records on their health histories and coordinate care, something that makes healthcare less necessary and cheaper in the long-run.  Also, private physicians charge less for office visits than the emergency room charges.

So do yourself a favor.  In the congressional elections this fall, vote out every Republican in the House and Senate.  Not one of them voted for the president's bill or the fixes that were passed a few pays latter.  It is the Republicans, not the Democrats that deserve to go.