After a year of tumultuous debate, Congress finally passed a broad overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system late last night. While there are some loose ends left untied—compromises made in the House version of the bill must still be approved by the Senate—the bulk of the legislation needs only President Obama’s signature to become law.
The angles to this historic legislation are numerous and wide ranging, so, this being a Boston blog, I’ll touch only on a few of those most relevant to the locality.
- A major component of the bill would provide millions of uninsured American’s with access to health care through subsidies for buyers and reforms to the insurance industry. Massachusetts already has the lowest rate of uninsured Americans in the nation due to its own health care overhaul, passed in 2006. Yet the Massachusetts model, parts of which served as a template for the national bill, has been imperfect, leaving many residents uninsured despite the state’s near universal coverage mandate. The Boston Globe today ran a summary of how the federal legislation will affect health care in Massachusetts, including the impact on enrollment.
- Thirty-four Democrats joined the entire GOP block in voting against the legislation, including South Boston Democrat Stephen F. Lynch, the only Massachusetts representative to break party ranks. Lynch’s dissenting vote was no surprise; a few days ago he said that he would only vote yea if, “they put reform back in the health reform bill.” However, in an inverse of Sen. John Kerry’s infamous “voting for it before voting against it,” Lynch later voted in favor of the compromises being sent to the Senate.
- Finally, what would a health care roundup be without mention of Sen. Scott Brown, who campaigned to block any healthcare overhaul as the 41st Republican senator? Well, despite rousing conservatives and government fearing types everywhere to his cause, Brown should be a non-issue as the legislation is completed. The main Senate version was passed before his election, and Democrats, by using a procedural tactic called budget reconciliation, can pass the compromises by a simple majority, thus avoiding a GOP filibuster. And while the Republican leadership is threatening to stall and challenge the legislation’s remaining pieces, Brown, despite campaigning almost exclusively on a kill-the-bill platform, has so far been iffy on whether he will toe the party line.