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10 Awesome Things That Would Happen If Health Reform Passes

Forget the fearmongering scare tactics of the right, here's how your life will actually be better.

Unable to win the debate on the merits of their arguments, opponents of health care reform have resorted to a dizzying array of outright falsehoods to terrify Americans into opposing a process that might deliver real benefits to their families.

They've falsely claimed that the government would "take over" the health system, put private insurers out of business and let pasty bureaucrats decide what treatment Americans would receive.

They've spun wild tales of federal agents coming into Americans' homes for lifestyle checks and faceless government officials making end-of-life decisions for patients.

They've falsely claimed that the legislation being considered by Congress would cover undocumented immigrants, and they sent around elaborate-but-wholly-fake "analyses" of the supposed bill, with references to made-up page numbers and all.

All of these serve the same ends: using the politics of distortion and distraction to capitalize on people's natural fear of change and compelling them to fight noisily against their own interests. And it can be somewhat effective -- that's clear from the raw, populist anger unleashed into the health-care debate in recent weeks by well-heeled corporate-lobbyists bent on derailing the democratic process

The industry-approved fog-and-monsters strategy has another benefit: It puts advocates of reform in the position of batting down a series of nonsensical arguments based on an endless string of health-policy straw men when they could be explaining why getting something decent done would in fact be good for the country.

So let's get past the fearmongering and look at some of the highlights of what's really in the more progressive legislation working its way through Congress. The proposals aren't perfect. As I've written before, in their current form, the bills fail the test of having a truly "robust" public insurance option, and as such has limited potential for cost savings.

But they are also substantial reforms that would go quite a way toward beefing up the health and economic security of a lot of American families if enacted.

The following breakdown is based on the legislation developed by three committees in the House of Representatives (HR 3200) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. A third piece of legislation is yet to emerge from the Senate Finance Committee. Reports suggest that the legislation coming out of Finance will be much more accommodating to the insurance industry and other corporate stakeholders.

Much of the real legislative fight will come when the two Senate bills are combined and then, later, when the final Senate and House bills are reconciled. 

1: The First Thing That Will Happen Is Absolutely Nothing

At least that's the case for a lot of people who now have quality health insurance.

If you have a decent health plan through your job, nothing will change for you in terms of your insurance.

In fact, if you work for a large or medium-sized company and have decent coverage at a price you can afford, then nothing can change for you -- you'll be ineligible to enroll in the public insurance option (which is discussed below).

If you have already have government-run health care -- if you're a vet, or are on Medicare or Medicaid or have a child in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, nothing will change for you in terms of your coverage. (One exception: Under the House bill, eligible children would be shifted from S-CHIP to a new public insurance program in 2013).

The only thing that would change for you in these circumstances would be this: your current insurance company would have a harder time screwing you over if you get sick. That's because, although your policy wouldn't change, it would be governed by new public-interest regulations for the entire health insurance industry. (See next item.)

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