It is looking more probable that the health care reform bill will pass in the Senate, since deals and maneuvers continue to be made to get the votes necessary to pass it.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) was one of the last Democrats to be swayed. She decided to vote in favor of the bill after legislation was included that would provide her state with an additional $300 million in Medicaid funds, although these funds are now in jeopardy of being removed from the final version of the bill.
On Monday, the White House told Harry Reid to "cut a deal" with Senator Joe Lieberman to get his vote, and subsequently the Medicare “buy-in” program was removed from the bill. In addition, there was talk this week that a threat had been made by the White House that if Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) does not vote for the bill, Offutt Air Force Base in southeast Nebraska will be placed on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list. Senator Nelson has denied that this threat was made.
The President told Charlie Gibson of ABC News on Wednesday that the "federal government will go bankrupt" if the bill is not passed. Others believe that bankruptcy would be a concern if the bill is passed.
Americans have voiced their disapproval of health care reform throughout the summer and fall, and as seen in the latest polls, Americans oppose Obamacare by a large margin. The percentage of Americans who approve of the bill has steadily decreased and is now at an all time low, ranging from 32% to 46%, depending on the poll.
Still, Congress moves forward with the bill. Promises of transparency fade further away as Congress discusses and amends the bill behind closed doors.
If this bill passes, it is expected that health care premiums will increase across the board. The primary reason for this increase is that under the proposed bill, insurance companies will be required to accept those with preexisting conditions. Since claims presumably will be immediately payable for those who are ill at the time of enrollment, the insurance companies will need an influx of cash to pay these claims, which will be raised by increasing premiums.
The young and healthy may opt to pay the penalty for non-coverage rather than to enroll, since the penalty will likely be far less costly than the premium. Consequently, they will not pay into the health care system until they become ill, at which time they will enroll with their preexisting condition. This will become a vicious cycle, with the bulk of the burden of premium increases being borne by the middle class families who had already made it a priority to carry health insurance.
Medicare cuts included in the bill will mean reduced payments to participating doctors. As a result, there will likely be a reduction in the number of doctors accepting Medicare, which will result in longer wait times and seniors worry that this will ultimately result in reduced care.
The public option appears to be off the table at this point. While most Americans agree that it should not be included in the reform bill, this has added to the perception that Congress and President will accept any version of the reform bill, as long as it is signed into law before Inauguration Day.
Such tactics only increase the disapproval ratings for the President, Congress and Obamacare since they reinforce the perception that the motivation behind the health care reform is political gamesmanship, not improving the lives of Americans.