No Triumph on Health Care

August 2nd, 2009

H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, was reported out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the most important of five committees that considered the bill, on July 31. 

The committee vote was 31 in favor, 28 against.  Of the total of 59 committee members, 36 are Democrats, 23 are Republicans.  All Republicans, along with five Democrats, voted against the bill.  This was achieved only after significant changes designed to satisfy moderate Democrats whose support was questionable while keeping the support of all other Democrats.

An Associated Press report described this vote as “a triumph for President Barack Obama.”  The New York Times was a bit more balanced, describing it as “the beginnings of a consensus.”  The Washington Post report was better and more even-handed.

This was certainly no “triumph” for President Obama or anyone else, and the only “consensus” it reflected was agreement among most Democrats. Obama wanted broad health care reform to be enacted quickly with bipartisan support.  It isn’t as broad as he wanted, it’s possible that it won’t be signed into law this year at all, and the bill couldn’t be more partisan.  Even Obama recognizes this, as he continues to back away from the reform he wanted in hopes of getting at least something.

The graphic above, prepared by the Republican opposition, is partly nonsense; if you wanted to you could make an absurd flow chart to show the process of getting a drivers’ license or going to the supermarket.  But it does make the point that the Democrats’ health care reform aspirations attempt to implement a very complex system of even greater government management of one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

If you want to spend a whole lot of time researching the bill and the legislative process, you can do that.  The information is available.  You can spend countless hours reading and trying to figure it out, and after you’ve spent more time than the average member of Congress will spend before he or she votes on the bill, you still won’t have a comprehensive understanding of what the bill does, much less what the uncountable number of unintended consequences might be.

According to a recent poll, a small majority of Americans oppose the current health reform bill, and they’re most concerned about the cost of reform.  If democracy means anything at all, members of Congress will listen to the people and start over again.  If it takes another year or two or five to get it done right, so what?

I’m not opposed to health care reform.  I agree that health care in America costs too much, and the cost is increasing at an unsustainable rate.  I agree that health care should be accessible to all Americans, even though the number of those uninsured is somewhat contrived.  What I don’t want is for Congress to pass and the President to sign a massive reform bill that no one fully understands and that could make the health care system in America far worse.

We can be thankful that at least the bill wasn’t rammed through and signed this month, as the President and many Democrats wanted.  At least members of Congress now have to go home and listen to the growing number of constituents who oppose this particular reform effort.

Here are a few sources worth reading, including a full text of H.R. 3200.  However, it has to be noted that the bill will most likely be modified further as it heads to an eventual vote in the full House, and it will certainly change when reconciled with whatever version the Senate may eventually pass.

Dems win approval of health bill in committee, Associated Press/Breitbart.com
Health Bill Clears Hurdle and Hints at Consensus, The New York Times
Obama Trims Sails On Health Reform, The Washington Post
H.R.3200 – America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, OpenCongress
Preliminary analysis of H.R. 3200, Congressional Budget Office
H.R. 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, Committee Assignments, GovTrack.us
America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, a summary prepared by the House Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor
America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, full text of the bill as reported out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (.pdf file, 1018 pages)
United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Wikipedia


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