Friday, March 19, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Congressional leaders unveiled the latest version of the health care bill Thursday, and the House Democratic leadership was ecstatic.
After months of being hammered by Republicans with lies about the reform plans, Democrats cheered the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s initial analysis of the bill, which undercut the GOP’s complaints. The analysis found the bill would give access to health insurance to 95 percent of nonelderly Americans while cutting the federal deficit by $138 billion over 10 years. The bill could cut as much as $1.2 trillion from the deficit in the following decade.
“We are absolutely giddy over the great news,” said Rep. James Clyburn, the South Carolina Democrat in charge of corralling votes for the bill.
President Barack Obama said the deficit-reduction measures are “but one virtue of a reform that will bring new accountability to the insurance industry and greater economic security to all Americans.”
Indeed. The health care reform plan is designed to cut skyrocketing insurance costs and expand coverage to millions of Americans. The country spends about $2.5 trillion a year on health care, and yet the percentage of Americans who lack insurance is growing. A recent study indicated that 1 in 4 Californians under age 65 are without insurance. In Nevada, 1 in 5 people lack health insurance.
Those numbers are deplorable, but Republicans continue to fight efforts to expand Americans’ access to health care insurance and deny that this is an issue. Never mind that Americans have seen their health care costs go up while their coverage has eroded. And millions have found themselves without insurance during the recession because of job loss.
Instead of working to help Americans, the Republicans are trying to scare them with half-truths to kill the bill. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told CNN on Thursday that the government was “injecting” itself into private insurance, echoing the standard GOP argument that the legislation is a government “takeover.” It is not a takeover. The bill would increase Americans’ ability to buy private health insurance.
Are they really against government health insurance? If so, why don’t they pull the plug on Medicaid, Medicare and Veterans Affairs, which provide coverage for millions of needy Americans, seniors and veterans? Instead, some Republicans have hypocritically complained about what they say will be cuts to government health plans.
Instead of honestly working to fix the serious problems in the system, Republicans have pledged to throw every obstacle they can in the way of Democrats. “It’s going to be a wild ride,” said John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House. Congress will have to take up two bills to pass health care reform to avoid a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
As Republicans make their stink and try to drum up a campaign issue out of health care, millions of Americans are without health insurance and countless more are being sunk by the high costs of care. A recent study found that a serious medical condition can send someone with insurance not only to the hospital but to bankruptcy as well.
Without change, things will get worse. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on Monday released a study that found that without health care reform, the percentage of uninsured Americans will climb dramatically over the next five years. The study found that families and the middle class will be particularly hard hit.
The country can’t wait any longer for health care reform. The issue has been studied and debated, and Congress has settled on a good plan. It’s time to move forward and pass it.