It is important to support the essential facets of health care reform bills moving through the House and Senate. These bills will eventually be melded into a final bill with some very good reform measures. The final bill coming out of conference committee and finally passed and signed will not fully satisfy the demands and desires of progressives like me.
However, I have believed from the beginning of this process that a single payer, universal health care system would not at this time be a remote possibility. I very much wanted to see a strong public option but that isn’t going to happen. Having said this, I believe, for the following reasons, progressives will be making a big mistake if they lose their grip on their emotions (as seems to be happening to some my soul mates) and attempt to scuttle legislation making its way through congress:
- The final passage of a bill that will most certainly include some meaningful reform (discussed below) will be a huge victory for President Obama and the Democrats. Conversely, it will be a huge defeat for the Republicans. On the other hand, failure to pass this legislation will be a crippling blow to the President and the Democratic Party.
- It appears certain that a final bill will include one of the few (if not the only) progressive tax measures since the beginning of the radically regressive tax movement underway since the Reagan Administration. The Senate version would increase the Medicare payroll tax .9% for individuals earning more than $200,000 ($250,000 for couples). As it is now, everyone pays 1.45% with no cap, which makes this a regressive tax.
The House version would charge a surtax of 5.4% on individuals making more than $500,000 ($1,000,000 for couples). This will be reconciled in some manner with the Senate version.
Either way the tax increase goes, it will be a move back toward progressivity. This is a big deal. Hopefully, this will open the door to take the $102,000 payroll cap off of the 6.2% Social Security deduction.
- Although everyone seems to be focused on the public option, it is important not to overlook the massive number of individuals who, heretofore unable to obtain coverage, will be able to buy insurance – many with very good subsidies. Both the House and Senate bills are too complex to discuss in any detail in a blog. However, if you are a fourth-degree policy wonk and want to Google the bills and read them, please note, for instance in the Senate bill, along with coverage provisions, the sections on the health care workforce (Title IV), preventing fraud and abuse (Title V), and improving access to innovative medical therapies (Title VI). These are much needed reforms and we need to support these bills.