Health bill has 60 votes | Arkansas Blog

Health bill has 60 votes



Payola and an abortion amendment for Sen. Ben Nelson apparently have provided the crucial vote for passsage of a Senate health bill. Everybody thinks the abortion change sucks.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is making approving noises and directing people to a webpage with details on the legislation. Says Lincoln:

“As I review the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the revised Senate health care bill, I can comment on what I do know.

“After years of trying, I believe we are close to achieving most of the goals for health insurance reform for Arkansas that I pledged to support in the beginning and without compromising my fiscal goals by adding to the deficit or creating a public option government health care plan that would be underwritten by taxpayers.

“These important changes in the American health care system will help get our economy back on track and reassure America’s small businesses and the self-employed that health insurance companies will no longer dictate their bottom line.

“There have been loud voices on both sides of the debate claiming that this bill either doesn’t do enough or would be harmful for the country. The truth is, we are changing the way insurance companies do business by forcing coverage of a pre-existing condition, preventing companies from dropping you when you get sick, and allowing you to keep your coverage even if you lose your job. We will expand coverage to more than 300,000 uninsured Arkansas workers and their families by forcing insurance companies to compete at an exchange and lower their costs. We will protect guaranteed Medicare coverage and benefits for our seniors. And, importantly, we have avoided creating a public option government health plan where taxpayers would assume the risk.

“I am encouraged that the coverage approach in the bill is modeled essentially after a plan I first introduced in 2004, including tax credits for small businesses; valuable insurance market rating reforms including prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition; health insurance “exchanges” through which small businesses and the self-employed can shop for coverage among a range of quality, affordable, private insurance plans; and the ability for insurance plans to be sold nationwide with a proven federal negotiator, the Office of Personnel Management that currently administers plans for federal employees, to help keep insurance rates affordable and ensure plans are abiding by fair rules.

“I am encouraged by the very large investment to ensure our small businesses can access coverage, placing them at the competitive advantage large corporations have enjoyed. And I am encouraged by CBO’s expectation that this bill would reduce federal budget deficits, a key goal of mine.

“After working in the Finance Committee for the last two years on various health insurance reform concepts and debating in the full Senate since November, I do not believe that we are rushing to judgment. In fact, we have had hundreds of member meetings, 11 hearings, three roundtable forums, one bipartisan summit, eight days of mark up in the committee, and a month of debate on the Senate floor. This has been a very full and healthy exercise of our democracy.

“In my ongoing commitment to transparency in the health care debate, I have posted this last piece of the Senate’s health insurance reform bill on my website, as I have done throughout this process.”

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