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Miles J. Zaremski Headshot

Health Care Reform: The "Pedal to the Metal"

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President Obama is back in town and stumping nearly daily for his health care reform. A few days ago, he was conducting a White House conference on health care reform where he said it's time to "Buck Up".

Also occurring within the last number of days is the introduction of HR 3200, the House version of health care reform. The Senate's H.E.L.P.'s subcommittee finished marking up its version of a health reform bill too. Only the Senate's Finance Committee is not finished with its work, since its draft of reform legislation has yet to be introduced. Regardless, Obama wants bills to the floors of each chamber for a vote by the August recess. It looks like he will get his way with HR 3200; probably not with the Senate's product.

Little noticed, at least so far, but certainly no less important, is that on July 16, Rep. Waxman, Chr. of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, received a letter from Dr. Michael D. Maves of the American Medical Association. Waxman's committee is one of the three House committees to take the lead on HR 3200. Dr. Maves said,

"On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the American medical Association, I am writing to express our appreciation and support for H.R. 3200, the 'America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009'. This legislation includes a broad range of provisions that are key to effective, comprehensive health system reform. We urge members of the House Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means Committees to favorably report H.R. 3200 for consideration by the full House."

Wow! The AMA, as the largest organization for our nation's physicians, has never been a supporter of large-scale health care reform -- not even for the Medicare program in the 1960s before its passage. While surely its support is a product of many considerations, it is still, nonetheless, support and quite noteworthy. The largest grassroots effort in the country representing 30 million Americans, Healthcare For America Now, has come out to strongly support HR 3200 as well. This comes on top of the pharmaceutical industry ponying up $80B to shore up the "donut hole" in Medicare's prescription drug program (in return for being left alone in negotiating drug prices) and the nation's hospitals willing to take about $155B less in government payments over the next decade in return for having all citizens insured. Is there an indication in the wind of what will come about now?

To all this consider that ads against health care reform are really getting nasty -- one says that health care reform will "kill" us. And there are other commentators saying the Obama administration doesn't care about the "Joe the Plumbers" of our country. Huh? Aren't there millions of regular "joes" who are uninsured, underinsured and have gone into bankruptcy because of unpaid medical and hospital bills. But the nastier the attacks against health care reform become, the more worried opponents become that finally our country will get sorely needed reforms.

Health care reform will pass this fall, in whatever form it finally takes. Now, the devil will be in the details. Rest assured that any reform will include the likes of eliminating the bar to coverage based on a pre-existing condition. HR 3200 also includes a public plan option that will meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms as private plans. The H.E.L.P.'s subcommittee version has a public option too. This type plan will be a battle, though most Americans want one. It ensures competition, and competition ensures the best price available for the product or service for all Americans. Other details will include no more retroactive denials of coverage by insurers and no more lifetime limits on how much insurers will spend on our health benefits. I suggest everyone reading this post log into the site, http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Moreinfo.asp?=52. This is the House' Ways and Means Committee site where all sorts of materials and details of HR 3200 await the reader.

The summer months generally are the time to "veg" out; relax, vacation (for those of us with $$ in our pockets to do so); but not this year, not now, and not when it comes to health care reform. We're in for a contentious time, but one whose outcome will certainly offer needed benefits for all. It's nice to see a president of resolve who will take the bull by the horns on such an important piece of legislation that affects every single American and American family.

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