Republicans Stall, Offer Ideas on Health Reform
President Obama's embattled attempt to push forward with health care reform and make health insurance affordable to most Americans has brought both the Republican rank and wavering Democrats into the fray. Needless to say, they are not going down without a fight. The President’s speech Wednesday appeared to be aimed precisely at hesitant Democrats, who are vital to the bill’s reconciliation vote, which would allow Senate Democrats to pass the bill with 51 votes.
Republicans have been notoriously vocal about their disdain for health care reform. However, rising costs in health insurance coverage and premiums – by as much as 60 percent in some states – has pushed the once lifeless bill once more into the forefront of American politics.
The renewed push for reform began when California health insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross announced plans to increase rates on individual plans up to 39 percent due to a declining pool of healthy young people and rising health care costs. Michigan, Washington State, Indiana, and Oregon soon followed suit, claiming the prices reflect the new world of health care.
Republicans, Democrats Uncertain About Health Spending
Not surprisingly, money remains the main culprit behind the Republican and Democrat resistance. While Republicans offered several responses to Obama’s challenge, “If you have a better idea, show it to me,” including making health insurance affordable, portable and allowing doctors and patients to control costs, the main thrust was keeping the bill within budget.
The national deficit is already ballooning out of control and under Obama’s proposed plan, the cost would be approximately $1 billion a year. Obama argues that the plan would “eliminate wasteful taxpayer subsidies that currently go to insurance and pharmaceutical companies”.
Conversely, Republicans argue the bill is “too expensive, too bureaucratic”. The seeming wall of mounting criticism especially on the Democrat side, makes health insurance reform seem nearly an impossible task to agree on, let alone implement.
Another major issue stopping the bill is abortion. Many Democrats, particularly the more right leaning, and Republicans oppose the bill’s lack of anti-abortion language. Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat from Michigan, is one of many who will oppose if such language is not included.
Obama’s final trick to get health care passed is a reconciliation vote, which allows for only 20 hours of debate in each chamber, negating any possibility of filibuster, and requires a simple majority to pass. This way Obama not only bypasses another Bunning-type incident, but also Republican opposition.
The bill still has long road ahead, and as Republican Senator John Thune said, “It’s not a done deal”. The legislation may still face the chopping block if Republicans get their way.