The House voted 219 to 212 to pass the Senate's version of the health care bill, the ''Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act'' (passed by the Senate on December 24), and then a version of House amendments in H.R. 4872, "Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act," by a vote of 220 to 211.
But it's not without a cost to taxpayers. Healthcare is one of the urgent issues that has divided the nation and brought many lawmakers to a sort of barbell scenario in Congress, with the far left and far right battling over pretty much every aspect of the bill. This is reflected in much of the press coverage, and in part the mood of Congress has polarized the editorial pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, tilting them more toward the left and right, respectively.
Nobel Laureate and economist Paul Krugman noted in his March 22 column, "Fear Strikes Out," in The New York Times, that President Obama's, "closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers;" while reporting that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia), said that Democrats will (if the health bill passes), " 'have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years' by passing civil rights legislation." Krugman adds: "Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality?"
The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, in an Op-Ed entitled, "The Doctors of the House," called the Bill "A landmark of liberal governance whose price will be very steep." The editorial added, "While the passage of ObamaCare marks a liberal triumph, its impact will play out over many years. We fought this bill so vigorously because we have studied government health care in other countries, and the results include much higher taxes, slower economic growth and worse medical care. As for the politics, the first verdict arrives in November."
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the March 21 House bill will:
- Cover 95%-plus Americans--an added 32 million people who were not covered before
- Reduce the budget deficit by $138 billion over 10 years
- Next 10 years "$1.2 trillion in additional deficit reduction"
Some of the reforms will take years to kick in, but some provisions take effect immediately:
- "Small Business Tax Credits" -Offering "up to 35% of premiums," in tax credits so businesses can more easily afford to cover employees--begins calendar year 2010. (Jumps to 50% of premiums in 2014)
- "Free preventative care under Medicare" -Beginning January 1, 2011, no co-pay or deductible for preventative care.
- Bridge for "Early Retirees" -For retirees 55-64, a bridge to insurance "Exchanges" defrays businesses' expenses when they cover those former workers.
See a summary of the bill, H.R. 4872, Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act.
Comments? Please send them to email@example.com. Kate McBride is editor in chief of Wealth Manager and a member of The Committee for the Fiduciary Standard.