My lovely readers obviously know where I stand on the bill. It's not perfect, it's not far-reaching enough, and it really only addresses the insurance side of the equation (and not topics like tort reform). It's not so much healthcare reform as it is insurance reform. So why is it important to me? Because in this case, insurance reform means reform of disparities of access to healthcare. And in this sense, insurance reform IS healthcare reform to many people, like the 32 million who will now have access to health insurance, and thus, access to healthcare beyond emergency rooms.
And yes, this bill does benefit my family. Becca can no longer be denied coverage because she is, as a friend wrote, "a walking pre-existing condition." (Okay, for now she's just a cruising and crawling pre-existing condition, but you get the point.) And when the full plan goes into effect in 2014, I will no longer be denied coverage for my pre-existing condition (almost dying in pregnancy). Becca won't be kicked off her plan when she reaches her $2,000,000 lifetime cap (remember, she's halfway there already). Eventually (assuming we don't have a massive increase in our family's income), we will receive subsidies to pay for our health insurance (because we make less than $88,000). And, diagnosed worrier that I am, I don't have to worry about how we will pay for treatment if one of us is in a terrible accident or is diagnosed with cancer. I just have to worry about everything else that goes along with those awful occurrences.
But that's not really why I am so excited about this bill. Our family would get by. We have a great support system, and while we are not rich, we manage and would continue to do so. I am excited about this bill because in many ways (not necessarily every way), the ends that it is seeking to achieve are simply right. I know that is a somewhat rude thing to say in this climate of partisan vitriol. I do try to respect and listen to all reasoned and factually correct positions on the issue. But this is where I come down on it: it is simply unjust that people in the U.S., the wealthiest nation in the entire world, cannot go see a doctor when they are sick because they cannot afford it. That is simply wrong. It is flat-out wrong that people who have paid their premiums for years are dropped by their insurance when they get sick. It is flat-out wrong that kids born into this country with a medical condition (be it prematurity or asthma) are denied coverage (and remember, coverage = access to care).
I know this bill isn't good news for everyone. Some of my friends who work in higher-paying industries will see some additional taxes (individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000, I believe). Theoretically, I guess, insurance companies may see lower profits, even though they will increase their customer base tremendously, because the bill includes a minimum of revenue that must be spent on actual services to enrollees. And larger companies would face fines if they don't provide insurance to their employees. Folks who are on employer-provided insurance may see premiums raised, but, seriously, have you seen how much they are being hiked anyway? When in full force, the bill will limit these premium increases.
I don't know enough about physician billing to fully understand how it will affect our friendly doctors (and trust me, I want to keep doctors happy - we looooove doctors at our house!), but I do know that there are incentives for new medical grads to go into primary care, which is by far the lowest paid area of medicine. (Seriously, I see a lot of doctors and a lot of EOB's, and our wonderful pediatrician bills at a fraction of the cost of the specialists...but she's our go-to and the one holding all the care together. Seems backwards. Plus, she's awesome and reads this blog, and now I'm just plain kissing up. But she is awesome.) I realize that specialists usually have additional training years, but really, the pay difference is so great that we have a primary care physician shortage in our country...so these incentives are a good thing.
I don't think I'm close-minded. I know that it is very much possible for you to agree with the ends that I see as justice (that is, helping everyone in our country to have access to quality healthcare) and still not see this bill as the appropriate means to this end. And, again, I don't think it's perfect. Not even close. But frankly, I no longer expect perfection out of Washington. I'm not sure why I ever did. Our senators and representatives are just human, after all. And in a messed-up two-party political system. But it's what we've got, and I've learned that you've got to do what you can with what you've got (while trying to make improvements) instead of holding out for perfect. So it's a start. And I think it's a big step in the right direction. Time will tell - and I think that's an another important point.
There are lots of folks on every side of the issue making projections about what will be wonderful and what will be horrendous about the bill, but the truth is, we never know exactly how a piece of legislation this complex is going to play out. And I don't think that is a fault of the bill. I'm just saying that we can't predict the future. Make projections, yes. And that's very important. But I think that maybe we should all take a deep breath before we run for the hills. Let's see how it goes. And, in the meantime, let's celebrate the parts of the bill that I think we can all agree on: more kids will be able to get more care. Families fighting cancer won't have to declare bankruptcy to pay off medical bills. And grieving families of a terminal patient won't get a rescission letter from their insurer. (And yes, I do have a friend who's husband was dropped while he waited for a heart transplant. Wow.)
There. I've had my say. I'm happy about this bill, and I hope you are, too. I would love to hear what you have to say about it, but please, please, please be kind and check your facts before you comment. I have a habit of deleting comments that are not respectful or are blatantly inaccurate. Let's see if we can all play nice. And if you want to learn more about the bill from some relatively balanced and unbiased sources, check out these links.
From the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8579658.stm
A fun visual explanation: http://www.slideshare.net/danroam/healthcare-napkins-all
From the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/st_healthcareproposals_20090912.html