Two weeks ago a new health care bill, H.R. 3962, passed the House. Many prominent democrats voted it down saying it did too little while health insurance companies denounced it claiming it did too much. Between this mess includes several awkward provisions and amendments which include removing funding for abortions from publicly subsidized plans while allowing medical reimbursements for prayer services.
Congressman Kucinich (D-Ohio) was just one of several democrat who voted no on the proposition. Although the bill still had a public option, Kucinich argued that this option was crippled and that provisions for removing preexisting conditions combined with requiring Americans to purchase health care would place more funding into the existing private health insurance industry.
“…instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies – a bailout under a blue cross1.” -Dennis Kucinich
From Kucinich’s standpoint, H.R. 3962 is a boon for insurance companies at the expense of the consumer. Insurance companies seem to support that assessment as various companies2 and advocacy groups3 are in favor of guaranteed coverage and eliminating denial based on preexisting conditions, but are still disappointed that the new bill has a public option claiming that a government-run plan will cause many to lose their existing coverage.
Health insurance companies aren’t satisfied with simply weakening the public option. The lobbying efforts of the industry are nothing short of monumental. There are over 3,000 registered lobbyists for the health care industry; that’s six for every member of congress4.
Their efforts don’t stop with lawmakers either. The website gethealthreformright.org is funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Healthcare Leadership Council, America’s Health Insurance Plans and other companies and lobbies. It attempts to portray itself as a pro-consumer website, emphasizing the advantages of privately run care over a public run option5.
Another contentious issue is restrictions within the bill for using public funding on abortions. Public funds for abortions have all ready been limited for decades by the Hyde Amendment, which some believe specifically and unfailingly targets low income women, hindering their options when it comes to their own health6. However H.R. 3962 goes further by stating that subsidized plans cannot cover abortions. This will cause many people with existing private yet subsidized plans to lose abortion coverage7.
Even with the republicans in dominance for the past eight years under the Bush administration, abortion is still legal. Obama’s administration has all ready made considerable changes in concern to abortions by striking down a rule that prohibited aid to family planning clinics that offered abortion referrals or services in low income countries; a rule imposed by the Bush administration8. Still, this very recent change to H.R. 3962 is a large step backwards in terms of abortion rights. If pro-life activists are truly wanting to make a stand for the sanctity of life, they should write a provision that bans any Federal money to be used to end a life, and then attach it to a defense authorization bill9.
So public funds cannot be used for abortions, but they can go to reimburse prayer thanks to a provision added by Senator Hatch of Utah. Although the plan doesn’t mention anything explicitly, it is though these provisions are to provide funding to faith based groups that do not believe in doctors or medical care such as Christian Scientists10.
The final bill that made it past the House is now in the hands of the Senate. It’s been stripped of some comprehensive options that would have pleased health care advocates while it still includes provisions that are favored by major insurance companies. What’s coming is a plan where everyone is required to buy insurance from the same industry that has been responsible for inflating cost. The fact that no one is happy in this outcome is probably the best example of a compromise where everyone loses.
The Senate bill will most likely have its share of slashing, rewording and amending. With the House version of the bill consuming 1990 pages, the Senate version will assuredly be longer. The only thing people can be assured of is that no matter what bill is passed, no Congressman or Senator will actually read it before voting on it.
1 Congressman Kucinich addresses vote on H.R. 3962 Dennis Kucinich. November 8, 2009.
2 Tennessee Blue Cross Blue Shield Comment on House Healthcare Vote. WDEF News 12. November 9, 2009.
3 AHIP Statement on House Passage of H.R. 3962 Karen Ignagni. November 7, 2009.
4 Health Care Lobbyists’ Rise to Power Sharyl Attkisson. October 20, 2009
5 Trust us, we’re your friendly, neighborhood insurance giant Adam Linker. The Progressive Pulse. July 24, 2009.
6 Public Funding for Abortion ACLU. July 21, 2004.
7 Last Change Drops Abortion Coverage. Janet Adamy. The Wall Street Journal. November 9, 2009
8 Obama reverses abortion-funding policy. Suzanne Malveaux. CNN. January 24, 2009.
9 If We Really Had ‘Pro-Life’ Legislators. August J Pollak. November 16, 2009.
10 Paying for Prayer in Health Care. Neurological Blog. Steven Novella. November 5, 2009