Thursday, December 24, 2009

Health Care Reform Bill Passes in the Senate

The health care reform bill passed the senate today with 60 votes, which is somewhat surprising because there was some talk about the potential for a vote or to slip away when it came to voting on the actual bill and only a simply majority was needed. Now the bill will be moving to conference where they'll have to merge the House bill (which includes a public option) with the Senate bill (which doesn't). From what I'm hearing, the conference bill will likely lean more towards the bill that passed the Senate in order to keep the filibuster proof majority.

With all that being said, Sen. Mark Warner issued a statement about the bill's passage this morning.
I voted in support of the Senate health care bill. While this legislation is far from perfect, I believe it will start to curb soaring health care costs for consumers and businesses, reduce our federal budget deficits over time, and extend the life of the Medicare program.

In addition, a dozen of my freshman colleagues worked together to successfully add significant cost containment measures to the Senate proposal, and we have expanded programs that deliver higher-quality care at lower cost. Our amendments, which encourage innovation, broaden transparency and aggressively attack inefficiency and fraud, have received bipartisan support, as well as endorsements from AARP, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, and major businesses that make-up The Business Roundtable.

Rising medical costs are strangling the American economy, hurting American families, and killing our ability to compete globally. This legislation represents a strong start, and includes almost every approach suggested by leading experts to try to tackle medical costs that have more than doubled in the past decade.

As this bill moves to conference, the focus must remain on the goals of reducing health care costs, increasing efficiency and accountability, and incorporating private-sector solutions to our health care challenges.
Interestingly enough Sen. Jeff Merkely, who is one of the more progressive members of the US Senate, issued the following statement which touches on some of the very same themes. I bring this up because it helps to show that goal of the Democratic caucus as a whole was passing meaningful legislation, even if there were a few individual members who were trying to water down the bill.
“Today, we have taken a long stride forward in our decades-long effort to provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to every single American. Thirty million Americans will gain access to affordable health care. Millions more will benefit from insurance reforms that end the insurance practice of rejecting citizens with pre-existing conditions and of dumping citizens off policies after they become sick or injured. And virtually every citizen will benefit from the investment in health clinics, disease prevention, and disease management.

"For far too long, individual citizens have been like lambs to the slaughter when they purchased health insurance. Now they will be able to join with others to purchase policies at the same discount obtained by large businesses.

"The same goes for our small businesses, which have been struggling with double-digit health care inflation. In addition to the ability to join a health-care purchasing pool to drive down costs, they will obtain significant tax credits to drop the price of insurance for their employees.

"This legislation is not all I want it to be. It does not contain a national public option to increase choice and competition. It is imperfect in many other ways as well. But this bill brings peace of mind to Americans struggling to secure affordable health care. This bill attacks runaway health care inflation. This bill establishes that in the United States of America, health care is no longer a privilege, it is a right."

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