The Congressional Budget Office estimates as many as 10 million U.S. workers will lose their current health care coverage under the current Senate health care reform bill. The bill may make it attractive for small businesses to simply pay federal fines rather than provide coverage for workers, according to this Fox News story.
Without the fallback of a government administered public option it is unclear where these workers might secure health care coverage. Senate Republicans asked the CBO for the new information, and immediately criticized the Obama administration for claiming no one would lose their current coverage. However the same Senate Republicans are involved in a bitter debate to keep the government out of the health care equation, leaving these same workers with nowhere to turn for help.
It comes as no surprise that the Democrat’s health care plan will result in coverage losses – they have to pay for the thing somehow, and so the claims that no one would lose coverage have always been suspect. Medicare recipients are obviously being targeted for cutbacks as part of the “Medicare savings” the Obama administration claims their plan will use to help pay the cost.
The safety net of the government-administered public option would have caught those dropped by employers and insurers as a result of the reform package. But resistance from Republican lawmakers and a number of Democrats have all but killed the public option, leaving those who lose Medicare and workplace coverage with no options.
These “plan killer” moves are apparently part of the GOP strategy to get health care reform off the Congressional agenda altogether, as conservative calls to scrap the current House and Senate bills and start-over again become more shrill and even somewhat hysterical. Republicans are afraid the Senate and House bills might be reconciled and approved, and President Obama has signalled he will sign almost anything with the words “health care reform” on it.
The fight over health care reform has become a purely ideological struggle as lawmakers have lost sight of the original goal: reform of a broken system and affordable coverage for American citizens. The arguments aren’t about what’s best for the country but what’s best for the parties. In other words it’s business as usual in Washington, which means no business at all for the American public.
UPDATE: 12/09/2009 – Senate leaders have announced a compromise among Democrats to remove any government administered health care covereage from the Senate bill, effectively killing the public option. While this does ensure the Democrats the votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate, it effectively removes any hope of affordable health care for millions of Americans, nullifying the original intent of health care reform.