Howard’s Dean’s assessment of the Senate’s health care bill is so negative, if he were a U.S. Senator, Dean says, he would vote against the bill. If Howard Dean were actually a U.S. senator, it’s hard to think that he would really stand against Sanders and Feingold, and other senators of integrity, and actually cause the Senate health bill to fail. A person with no actual power can make easy boasts.
But what Dean is accusing is disturbing, because Dean is an expert about health care and, I believe, has good motives. Dean is obviously upset by what he sees as a big failure of the Democratic Party to craft better health care legislation. Dean’s analysis of the health bill is disheartening because what he says makes so much sense.
Dean writes, “I know health reform when I see it, and there isn’t much left in the Senate bill. I reluctantly conclude that, as it stands, this bill would do more harm than good to the future of America.”
U. S. Senator Paul G. Kirk from Massachusetts, the replacement for Ted Kennedy, disputes Howard Dean’s stance and outlines the reasons why he will vote for the Senate health legislation.
Senator Kirk writes, “The bill before the Senate is not the bill I would write, and it’s not the bill Chairman Dean would write. It is neither perfect, nor is it the final product. But make no mistake. It is real reform, and it will provide enormous benefits to American workers, American seniors, American small businesses and American families.”
Senator Kirk outlines seven reasons to justify the claim that the Senate bill has “real reform.”
- Real reform would create competition in insurance markets. The Senate bill does precisely that by establishing insurance exchanges that will create competition for enrollees, and by requiring that all insurers provide standardized information to consumers so that they can comparison shop for the best insurance product available at the most affordable price.
- Real reform would redirect funds from administrative expenses to investment in quality health care benefits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has already found that the insurance exchanges created by the Senate bill will lower administrative costs. In addition, the Senate bill will force any insurance company that doesn’t spend enough of its premium dollars providing benefits to rebate the difference to its customers.
- Real reform would significantly lower costs. Here too, the CBO has found that the Senate bill will reduce existing premiums for the insured, and reduce the deficit by cutting federal spending on health care. One way it achieves these savings is by finally focusing our health system so that it rewards the quality and value of outcomes instead of the quantity and volume of tests and procedures provided.
- Real reform would improve the delivery of health care. The Senate bill contains delivery system reforms that the Business Roundtable has concluded could save up to $3,000 per employee.
- Real reform would give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. That is precisely what the health insurance exchanges created by the Senate Bill are designed to do. These exchanges will provide competitive options to people who today have no health insurance choices.
- Real reform would eliminate discrimination against those needing insurance based on their preexisting medical conditions. The Senate bill does precisely that, and it also eliminates insurance company policies designed to end or decrease coverage when a customer gets sick.
- Real reform would bring transparency and accountability to the health care system when it comes to excessive salaries and insurance company profits. The Senate bill requires insurance companies to publicly report and justify how much they are spending on administrative costs relative to medical care. Insurance companies that cannot justify their premium charges will not be allowed to offer their plan in the exchange.
Sen. Kirk disputes Dean’s claim that few Americans will see any benefit under this bill until 2014, and produces a list of benefits that will kick in as early as 2010:
* Establish a high-risk pool that will give uninsured Americans with a pre-existing condition access to coverage;
* Prohibit insurance companies from dropping coverage for Americans because they get sick;
* Prohibit the imposition of lifetime limits on coverage;
* Require insurance companies to report the percentage of premium revenues that they spend on medical benefits for their enrollees, and force them to rebate any excessive costs or profits;
* Require insurance companies to provide free preventive services;
* Require insurance companies to cover dependents up to age 26;
* Provide a discount on drug costs to seniors who fall into the Medicare Part D doughnut hole.
* Provide a tax credit to small businesses that provide health insurance for their employees.
Senator Kirk concludes, “I am old enough to recall the Civil Rights Act of 1960, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Each of those pieces of legislation was incomplete. There was always more to do. But each of those bills was a landmark that began the march of progress toward equality under our laws. And each created an environment in which we could continue to move forward so that our country’s laws better fit our national character and the principle of equal justice. The same is true of this bill. …”