Home National Politics What Does Health Insurance Reform’s Passage Mean?

What Does Health Insurance Reform’s Passage Mean?


I spent all weekend reading about nothing but the politics & process of health insurance reform. And that seems to be all the morning papers are focused on, too. I know journalists are neck deep in this stuff, but can’t they pull themselves out of the muck for one morning and explain what this health insurance reform bill means for real people?

What if you’re at the office coffee maker this morning & a coworker asks “Well, what does this thing DO anyway?” What should you say? Let’s try to cut through the clutter:

  • 40 million people who don’t have health insurance right now will get it thanks to this bill — 24 million through tax credits & new state-based exchanges and 16 million who earn less than 133% of the poverty line through their new Medicaid eligibility.
  • You can keep your health insurance when you get sick. Let that sink in. Also, your insurer won’t be able to demand you get prior approval before you go to the emergency room.
  • The bill will cut the deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years and include major cost savings through common sense steps, like Medicare changes intended to deliver care more efficiently and at a lower price.

What about the political implications? Again, let’s focus not on things like reconciliation that no one will remember a month from now, but on long-term impacts:

  • Republicans gambled on being able to obstruct this bill, ignoring policy and focusing solely on dealing Democrats a defeat — and lost. Badly. As David Frum first pointed out and Josh Marshall echoed this morning, if voters ultimately like this bill, Democrats will get 100% of the credit, and Scott Brown’s election may look less like the tip of the iceberg than the continuance of the GOP’s Ice Age.
  • It’s hard to overstate how much opposition Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid were able to overcome — not just from the Party of No, but from reluctant members of their own party, the right wing noise machine, and millions upon millions of dollars spent by groups like the Chamber of Commerce trying to kill reform.
  • The lasting image of the Republican opposition will be John Boehner trembling with rage and someone shouting “baby killer” because anti-abortion language was insufficiently draconian, all while refusing to condemn Tea Partiers who hurled epithets at anyone different from them. Good luck selling all that to independent voters this fall.

There’s plenty more to do, especially in the Senate, which has lagged behind the House, particularly on clean energy & climate and financial reform bills. And there’s the public option and immigration reform and deficit reduction and more. But that’s for another day.

In a town where Democrats so regularly have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, this is a day to celebrate. You may live a long and full and happy life and never see a greater progressive victory. Enjoy it.


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