In the middle of the night I watched the U.S. Senate vote for cloture on the health care bill. It means that they decided to cut off debate, which requires a 60% majority. Which is exactly what they got, 60-40. The final vote on passing the bill is now just a formality, since it only requires a simple majority, 51 votes.
The bill that passed is, however, quite horrible, and a light-year away from the reform that the American people need. For instance, the health care insurers in the U.S. – private for-profit companies – have since WWII had an exemption from the anti-trust laws. The bill contained a clause that would remove that would make it illegal to fix prices. However, to get the 60th vote, they had to take that clause away.
Another crucial provision that was removed was to make it legal for states to set up not-for-profit, public health insurance systems. They had already a long time ago had to abandon the idea of a universal health insurance like the ones that every other developed country in the world has. The public option was all that remained. However, to get the 60th vote they had to remove even the possibility of public competition with the price-fixing private industry.
The 60th vote came from Joe “Judas” Lieberman. He was the one to sell out the American people to the insurance companies.
What remains in the bill is a provision that makes it a crime not to buy health insurance from the price-fixing private for-profit companies. In other words, the way to get coverage for all ended up not being a universal health insurance system like the other 42 highly developed nations have, but to force people by law to buy a product from an industry that is free to set whatever price they want, that is free to avoid private competition by price-fixing, and that is protected from public competition by law.
Today 40,000 Americans per year die since they have no money and no insurance to pay for life-saving medical procedures. Nobody will sell them health insurance since they have a “pre-existing condition”. If they loose their job, they loose their insurance. If they got a disease such as cancer while under the previous insurance, no new insurance will be sold to them. So if the cancer comes back, they’re dead. Cancer is just one example.
Even those who have insurance today are not protected. The insurers are happy to collect the fees for years, but when the customer becomes a patient and is headed for an expensive operation, then the insurance company makes an investigation to find out if the person had some pre-existing condition. If they find something, no matter how insignificant, then they drop the insurance immediately since the form was filled in fraudulently. Even if it was an honest mistake due to poor memory. Therefore, in my book the health insurance is organized crime; morally speaking, although it is legal since they have bought enough Congressmen to make their moral crime legal. But what they do is an abomination to God and to Human Rights principles alike.
The bill that now will be passed, it is just a formality, bans denying coverage based on pre-existing condition. That is a huge improvement, although I don’t think it will work in practice. You see, the companies will create such a bureaucracy to renew the coverage every year that it will take about half the year to renew, during which time the person will be uninsured, and (hopefully, in the eyes of the company) die. Simple logic says that you cannot run health insurance for profit without violating Human Rights. Those in Congress who argue otherwise have either sold their souls to Mammon, or they are naive. I’ll excuse the Republicans, but Lieberman is not naive.
So why did the Democrats pass this bill in spite of these sell-outs? Because the House bill is much better, so when the two reach the reconciliation committee the compromise will for sure be better than the Joe “Judas” Lieberman Bill.