The Senate Dems defeated all of the GOP junk amendments intended to derail the reconciliation package. Senate Republicans have been using every procedural trick they can find to slow down the Senate from doing anything. However, someone discovered a provision that didn’t fit the reconciliation rules. So it has to go back to the House. However, the fixes are minor, and at this point it seems unlikely that the House Dems would balk at making the changes.
From reading their sites, I’m not sure some righties understand that the former Senate bill remains law even if the reconciliation package were to be defeated. I get the impression they think defeating the reconciliation bill (which, among other things, repeals Ben Nelson’s “cornhusker kickback” that provided extra money for Medicaid recipients in Nebraska) will make the whole thing go away. It won’t.
The provision (which I remember reading about some time back) is that a state can choose to opt out of the federal program entirely (not just the mandate specifically) IF it comes up with an alternative program that provides its citizens with the same access to coverage at the same rates, and with the same consumer protections. You and I know that’s not going to happen. And since the mandate is essential to keeping down the cost of insurance premiums for everyone, cutting the mandate alone would put a state afoul of the law. But I’d say it was a smart move on someone’s part to insert that into the bill.
[Update: See also E.J. Dionne, “Health Care and the New Nullifiers.”]
More troubling are the threats of violence and acts of vandalism aimed at House members and their families. But many of us speculated we’d see violence from the Right if the Democrats actually got serious about enacting progressive change.
And, of course, nothing has changed yet. All we’ve done so far is put a process in motion that will bring about change eventually.
I thought of that yesterday when I tried to get a Lipitor prescription refilled. I got into a new group plan through the Freelancer’s Union last year that saves me considerable money on premiums over my old individual insurance, which I simply could not afford. However, the group plan (through the infamous Anthem Blue Cross) is much less generous about actually paying for stuff. There’s always some reason prescriptions cost more than the $10 co-pay, for example, although the extra amount I’m required to pay varies from month to month.
But yesterday I was told I’d have to pay $95 to get a monthly supply of Lipitor. I told the pharmacist they could keep it. My arteries will just have to harden until I can get better insurance. (But, Anthem Blue Cross, isn’t the Lipitor cheaper than paying to treat heart disease? You’d think they’d encourage me to take the Lipitor instead of penalizing me.)
But mine is a minor problem compared to that of Robert Hollister, who has stage 4 cancer and who is falling through the cracks in the reform bill. He lost his job, and in September his insurance will expire. The HCR bill provides for subsidies for high-risk pools so that people like Hollister can get affordable insurance. However, there is a three-month waiting period, and even then he can’t apply until he has been without insurance for six months. Without chemotherapy, he doesn’t expect to live that long.
Such provisions are put in to protect insurance companies — they’re to discourage people from dropping their existing insurance companies in favor of the subsidized insurance. But where’s the protection for Robert Hollister?