The Senate Finance Committee just voted 14-9 at 2:53 p.m. today to approve the modified chairman’s mark health reform bill. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted with all 13 Committee Democrats in favor, and all the remaining Republicans voted against. In a committee which has a long history of bipartisanship, at least a slight vestige of the remains. By this vote and the 60 votes it will take on the Senate floor in a few weeks to take it up, it appears we have turned the corner in taking on monopoly health insurers. Enactment of some health insurance reform now seems likely this year.
Sunday, the health insurers released a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study for America’s Health Insurance Plans that claims the cost of private health insurance ($12,300 for a family today) would rise 79% over the next 10 years under the current system and 111% under the Senate Finance Committee bill because it lacks a strong coverage requirement, because its directly taxes health insurers and other health providers, and because of cost-shifting from Medicare. AHIP’s President appeared on MSNBC to hammer it home. A spokesperson for Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) immediately called the study “a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple.” The White House called it “an insurance industry analysis that is designed to reach a conclusion which benefits the industry, and does not represent what the bill does.” Later, the White House issued a detail, point by point rebuttal. This is a good example of monopoly power and of how adroit monopolists can be in defending their exploitation of the American public.
The Senate Finance bill is far from perfect, but it sets us on a course over the next several years to fix some of the most egregious flaws in our health care system. You can be assured that more bills will follow in coming years as we evolve our way to a more rational health care system.