Jane Hamsher of the liberal blog firedoglake remains unenthused about the Democrats’ healthcare bill:
Real health care reform is the thing we’ve fought for from the start. It is desperately needed. But this bill falls short on many levels, and hurts many people more than it helps.
A middle class family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $5,243 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income — out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible. Many families who are already struggling to get by would be better off saving the $5,243 in insurance costs and paying their medical expenses directly, rather than being forced to by coverage they can’t afford the co-pays on.
While Hamsher’s critiques from the left are being essentially ignored by the Democratic faithful, she highlights an important point: the potential blowback from families that will be mandated to purchase health insurance but still won’t be able to afford their premiums, even under the new plan. Right now those families can choose to go without insurances and pay for their care out of pocket. Under the Obama plan, they would have to purchase insurance coverage but wouldn’t receive enough of a subsidy to cover the cost.
Hamsher also had this interesting tidbit about a potential alternative that sounds a lot more appealing (emphasis mine):
While details are limited, there is apparently a “Plan B” alternative that the White House was considering, which would evidently expand existing programs — Medicaid and SCHIP. It would cover half the people at a quarter of the price, but it would not force an unbearable financial burden to those who are already struggling to get by. Because it creates no new infrastructure for the purpose of funneling money to private insurance companies, there is no need for Bart Stupak’s or Ben Nelson’s language dealing with abortion — which satisfies the concerns of pro-life members of Congress, as well as women who are looking at the biggest blow to women’s reproductive rights in 35 years with the passage of this bill. Both programs are already covered under existing law, the Hyde amendment.
I’ve always said that if the goal is increase coverage, the quickest way to get there is to expand Medicaid. For a number of reasons the Democrats don’t appear to have seriously considered that route. It’s a pity- Medicare and Medicaid are both already established and running relatively smoothly. If my time covering the federal government has taught me anything, it’s that large additions to the federal bureaucracy rarely hit the ground running.