Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here's the Thumbs Up . . .

As some of you know, I've wavered on supporting the so-called healthcare reform bill. At nearly the last minute, I decided (along with probably a majority of my progressive friends) that A bill is better than NO bill. (Even my man Dennis Kucinich was persuaded to support it.) Which, when you think about it, is more or less about the most tepid endorsement you can give it. So today, let's detail what's good about this legislation. There's no question that it represents a great leap forward in some crucial areas.

Arianna Huffington is no great fan of the bill either, but she recognizes that it's going to help millions of people. A blogger I read regularly sums up the benefits nicely with wry commentary, the best of which, and none of them are bad, rein in the insurance industry and puts a halt to the unconscionable practices that have wreaked such financial havoc on so many people and literally condemned some of them to death. Here's a more straightforward list by one of Jim Kuntsler's readers. All of these reforms will happen this year.

1. Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 27th birthday
2. Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
3. No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
4. Free preventative care for all
5. Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.
6. Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
7. The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
8. Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
9. Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.
10. No more rescissions. Effective immediately, you can't lose your insurance because you get sick.

Also, in many communities - half-rural and half-suburb -- community health centers will receive funding to provide health and preventive services to people with no access right now. And that's just one benefit. They're all valuable.

I cannot help but think that these things must improve the overall health of the country.  And as the program phases in, 35 million Americans, with no insurance now, will be able to obtain health insurance. All good. For the not so good. Tune in tomorrow.
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