It's a Christmas miracle! Or maybe a Christmas sausage. The Senate voted on their $871 billion health care reform bill this morning, in a rare Christmas Eve session, and passed it by a vote of 60 to 39.Ezra Klein thinks it's good news:
It's not pretty, and it doesn't necessarily feel like winning is supposed to feel. But this bill will do most of the things supporters hoped it would do: cover about 95 percent of all legal residents, regulate insurers, set up competitive exchanges, pretty much end risk selection, institute a universal structure that we can improve and enhance as the years go on, and vastly reduce both medical and financial risk for families.So does Matt Yglesias:
For all its flaws, if signed into law this bill would be the greatest progressive social policy achievement in over forty years. It's fine not to be satisfied with this legislation, but it's perverse not to be happy about it. The important thing is to try to make sure that we don't need to wait another forty years before additional major improvements become possible.The Wall Street Journal's excellent Health Blog has a roundup of reactions from doctors, insurers, and business.The next step is for Congress to iron out the differences between the House bill and the Senate bill. Here's a quick summary of what those differences are:
The House bill puts strict limits on federal funding of abortion. The Senate is less restrictive.The House wants a government-run insurance plan, or public option. The Senate opted instead to push a federally supervised system of multi-state, privately run insurance plans.The House wants to impose a 5.4 percent income-tax surcharge on individuals who earn $500,000 a year or more and couples who make more than $1 million, starting in 2011, a change that would begin to restore some of the Bush-era tax cuts.The Senate, however, prefers a 40 percent excise tax on more expensive employer-sponsored insurance plans and a 0.9 percentage point increase in the 1.45 percent Medicare tax on the wealthy.This thing isn't over, but it now looks very likely that some form of health care reform will pass and that it will be an improvement.