But even if all the problems of the Senate bill can't be fixed in conference, Congress must send the president a bill to sign -- and soon. My position on this puts me at odds with many of the wonderful reform advocates I have met in the six months that have passed since I switched sides in this national debate -- going from being a spokesman for the health insurance industry to being a vocal critic of it -- in testimony before Senator Jay Rockefeller's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last June.
. . . I understand their frustration, but I believe that when they stop and think about the real consequences of what they demanding, they will realize that for all its disappointing compromises and flaws, even the Senate-passed bill should be viewed as a foundation that can be built upon in years to come.
. . . Progressives must keep in mind that even leaving the station has not been a possibility for 15 years. We must not forget what happened in 1994 -- the last time we thought the stars had aligned -- when opponents of reform prevailed. We must also not forget that many of the reforms in the Senate and House bills are critically important. Yes, insurance companies likely will try to game the system in their relentless quests to meet Wall Street's expectations, but many of the practices they have used for decades to do that will become illegal. We also must not forget the importance to lawmakers of the future of having a foundation to build upon. They will not have to start from scratch as current and past lawmakers have always had to do. And future lawmakers will be able to fix problems not addressed by this legislation as well as the unintended consequences that inevitably will arise.
. . . It is tempting to join the "Kill the bill" folks, but it would amount to cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Big Insurance and Big Pharma will not be running out of money anytime soon to spend on manipulating public opinion and influencing votes on Capitol Hill. Part of every premium dollar we send to our insurance companies, and part of every dollar we pay when we pick up our prescriptions, end up in corporate piggy banks that overpaid executives tap to hire armies of lobbyists and PR firms whenever their profits are being threatened. These giant corporations and their trade associations have been saving up and preparing for this debate for years. I know because I used to be part of it.
. . Instead of sending more "Kill the Bill" emails, we need to turn our attention now to leaders in the House, insisting they stick to their guns on important elements of their bill and improve on what the Senate has passed. It will not be easy to merge the two bills to the satisfaction of reform advocates, but at the very least the House should add language to strengthen the regulation of insurance companies and close the loopholes that would allow them to circumvent the intent of the legislation.
Labels: HEALTH INSURANCE