Health bill goes to Senate

Health bill goes to Senate

The latest fight over health care has just begun.

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans last week claimed what passes for a legislative victory when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a health care bill that repeals most of Obamacare.

But their approach to revising former President Barack Obama's health care leviathan has a long way to go before it becomes law.

For starters, the bill now moves over to the U.S. Senate, where opposition is formidable.

Senate Democrats have announced uniform opposition to whatever proposals President Trump makes, especially Obamacare repeal.

With 48 Democrats in the Senate, that leaves the body's 52 Republicans very little margin for error in fashioning a bill they can support.

Senate Republicans further indicated that they intend to write their own legislation, not just accept the House version. So there's trouble aplenty on the health care legislative front, differences of opinion that are just as likely to leave Obamacare in place as repeal it.

The House bill would end the Obamacare mandate that requires all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine for not doing so. It repeals the taxes that were raised to pay for the measure, replacing them with tax credits to help people buy insurance if they can't get it through their employers.

The bill would also reduce funding for Medicaid, the welfare program on which the vast majority of Obamecare recipients now depend.

Illinois alone added roughly 600,000 people to its Medicaid rolls as a consequence of Obamacare.

Frankly, the method by which the House passed this health bill was not confidence inspiring. It smacked more of back-room bargaining and political muscling than the thoughtful legislative approach that is the mark of sound, bipartisan legislation.

Of course, it did not help that Democrats have no interest in modifying Obamacare. They apparently think it cannot be improved upon, at least not by Republicans.

But it's hardly model legislation. For starters, the health insurance exchanges that were supposed to provide a wide array of policy options have mostly failed. Even worse, the policies Obamacare enrollees were able to purchase featured both sky-high premiums and sky-high deductibles for the long list of mandated coverages they included.

Too many people were forced into the unfortunate position of paying way too much for way too little.

As for the Medicaid benefits so many Obamacare recipients now receive, that's hardly something most people would regard as acceptable. The welfare program costs taxpayers an arm and a leg and is of mixed value, mostly owing to the rationed nature of the care that is available. Medicaid, clearly, is better than nothing, but is still sub-standard. It's certainly nothing that should be regarded as a permanent fix.

The real solution, of course, is to get the economy humming so businesses that provide good benefits increase hiring.

Much has been made of the issues of pre-existing conditions, and the debate on this issue has been less than clear. Republicans contend they have made provisions for funding high-risk pools for those who need them in a way that doesn't cost the average insurance enrollee extra. People will just have to wait and see about that.

There is far more that is not known than is known about this latest proposal. An honest discussion about the bills and its contents would be helpful. But that's unlikely, at best.

This issue has been so politicized for so long that each party has more interest in scaring people about the other side's plans than in any kind of honest exchange.

The problem with Obamacare, in our view, was its one-size-fits-all approach, head-to-toe mandates that resulted in participating insurance companies offering policies many people couldn't afford and didn't want.

This newest proposal promises more flexibility at a lower cost to consumers. But the details are hazy, and the costs undetermined.

Democrats, however, seem to be convinced House Republicans have erred. They were gloating about their expected victories at the polls in 2018, singing the goodbye song ("Na, na, na, na — na, na, na, na, — hey, hey, goodbye") to their GOP rivals.

House Republicans don't subscribe to that view, at least not now. They ran on a pledge of repealing Obamacare and say they've kept that pledge.

So the politics seem to be right for both sides. But it remains to be seen if the public, those the politicians purport to serve, will benefit from the proposed change in the status quo.

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