Difficult victory

Overcoming the intense lobbying efforts of the health insurance-industrial complex and their far-right "tea party" stormtroopers, which spent some $640,000 a day opposing health care reform, the American people and their organizations, especially their unions, mobilized and pushed through a bill that can improve the health care system for millions of insured and uninsured people.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act, HR 3962, takes a step on the road of curbing the enormous power that profit-making insurance corporations have over our nation's health care.

Among its pluses are:

  • bans on the much-hated denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions, and lifetime coverage caps.
  • a public insurance option to compete with private plans in a new insurance exchange for people who don't have employer coverage.
  • Medicaid expansion to provide free health care to all Americans with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

While the bill requires individuals to buy insurance, it also offers subsidies to help households earning up to $88,000 a year for a family of four purchase coverage.

The House bill places a surcharge on individual taxpayers who earn more than $500,000 a year and families who earn over $1 million, to help pay for the costs. It also cuts the Bush administration's Medicare privatization debacle, called Medicare Advantage, a big giveaway to insurance corporations.

The bill contains other important improvements for women, including banning price disparities based on sex and barring denial of coverage for "pre-existing conditions" like pregnancy, Caesarean section, rape and domestic violence.

But even though the House bill is overall an important step forward, the insurance companies and ultra-right managed to gum it up.

They saddled it with a vicious anti-choice provision. Called the Stupak amendment, after the Michigan Democrat who introduced it, it would bar women who get any federal subsidy for health insurance from getting access to abortion even if it's paid with her own money.

Women and their organizations won't let this stand, as the health reform fight goes into the Senate. But the Stupak amendment clearly complicates further an already tough fight and plays right into the hands of the big insurance companies and the ultra right who are desperate to derail major health reform.

 

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