Do We Really Want to Enshrine Insurance Monopoly into Law? This and 5 Other Complaints About the Health Bill
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The Affordable Health Care for America Act was approved by the U.S. House Saturday night with overwhelming support from progressive Democrats who serve in the chamber and from a president who was nominated and elected with the enthusiastic support of progressive voters.
But that does not mean that informed and engaged progressives are entirely enthusiastic about the measure.
In fact, some are openly and explicitly opposed to it -- among them former Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and CPC member Eric Massa, D-New York, both of whom broke with the majority of their fellow Democrats to vote "no" when the House approved the measure by a narrow 220-215 vote Saturday.
How can this be?
Isn't this a fight between Democrats and Republicans? Between reforming liberals and tea-party conservatives?
How can there possible be any subtlety or nuance to this debate?
Well, of course, the debate over this 1,900-page behemoth of a bill is more complicated than the easy spin of political insiders -- and media cheering sections -- would have Americans believe.
Key interest groups, such as the National Organization for Women, and key congressmen who have been long-term supporters of reform, such as single-payer backers Massa and Kucinich, argue that the bill is not the cure for what ails the U.S. health care system.
Indeed, they suggest, the bill as it is currently constructed could make a bad situation worse.
Many sincere progressives in the House, and outside of it, chose to back the bill as the best that could be gotten. Others supported it on the theory that flaws could be fixed in the Senate and in the reconciliation of the House and Senate bills.
But those repairs will only be made if activists are conscious of what ails this bill.
For that reason, even supporters of the House legislation would be wise to consider the criticisms of it by groups that advocate for the rights of women, patient advocates, unions and some of the most progressive members of the House.
Here are six smart progressive complaints about the House bill:
1. FROM CONGRESSMAN ERIC MASSA: "This Bill Will Enshrine in Law the Monopolistic Powers of the Private Health Insurance Industry"
At the highest level, this bill will enshrine in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry, period. There's really no other way to look at it. I believe the private health insurance industry is part of the problem.
This bill also, I believe, fails to address the fundamental question before the American people, and that is how do we control the costs of health care. It does not address interstate portability, as Medicare does. It does not address real medical malpractice insurance reform. It does not address the incredible waste and fraud that are currently in the system.
2. FROM THE CALIFORNIA NURSES ASSOCIATION: This Bill Fails to Control Costs
While the current bills will provide limited assistance for some, the inconvenient truth is they fall far short in effective controls on skyrocketing insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital costs, do little to stop insurance companies from denying needed medical care recommended by doctors, and provide little relief for Americans with employer-sponsored insurance worried about health security for themselves and their families.
3. FROM THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: "This Bill Obliterates Women's Fundamental Right to Choose"
The House of Representatives has dealt the worst blow to women's fundamental right to self-determination in order to buy a few votes for reform of the profit-driven health insurance industry. We must protect the rights we fought for in Roe v. Wade. We cannot and will not support a health care bill that strips millions of women of their existing access to abortion.
Birth control and abortion are integral aspects of women's health care needs. Health care reform should not be a vehicle to obliterate a woman's fundamental right to choose.