Health care bill won’t help most Americans

The Republican health care bill, passed July 15 in the Senate, demonstrates a stunning lack of regard for average citizens. The bill, which passed on a 53-47 vote, only applies to a small percentage of Americans and does little to give individuals more control over their health care.
The Senate had two bills to choose from, each major party sponsoring one. As has become usual in this legislative session, most of the votes — both on the actual bills and on amendments — were split along party lines.
The Republican-sponsored bill that passed improves the health insurance situation for some, but its measures apply to too few citizens. The 48 million citizens who have coverage provided by large companies with self-financed plans will be aided by the bill, but 111 million others are not affected by the bill’s passage. The insurance plans that fall under the bill will now be required to allow policy-holders to go to the nearest emergency room without penalty and will be forced to offer somewhat expanded access to specialists. In comparison to the Democratic bill, however, the plan does very little.
The groups that supported and the groups that opposed the Republican bill reveal a great deal about those who will benefit from its passage. Dr. Thomas Reardon, president of the American Medical Association, appeared at a news conference to oppose the vote against the Democratic plan, which would have given doctors, rather than insurance companies, the final say over what treatment is medically necessary.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out in opposition to the Republican amendment regarding women’s access to obstetricians, claiming it would weaken access to follow-up care. Many consumer groups also claimed the bill put profits above quality care.
Most of the public support for the bill came from health management organizations, who feared losing profit from greater regulation. The wording of the bill left almost all HMOs free of additional restrictions. HMO corporate leaders feared that allowing patients to sue over denied treatment might drive up the cost of care. However, lawsuits would be less likely if HMOs left the final health care decision up the patient’s doctor.
The Democratic plan that was defeated would have greatly expanded patient protection. In addition to covering all citizens with privately held insurance policies, the Democratic plan would have given doctors the final say over treatment. It also would have allowed patients who believed they were unfairly denied treatment to sue their insurance companies. Patients would have had greater access to specialists and more options for where to get their care. The bill failed, though, and the situation remains the same for most.
The Senate had the opportunity to pass legislation that would truly reform health insurance. Instead, four out of five citizens will still have the final say on their treatment made by bureaucrats they’ve never met and will have little recourse if certain treatments are denied. Four out of five citizens will have restricted access to specialists and emergency rooms.
Party lines, lobbying and politics conspired against the average American to create a bill that sounds good but does little.