Those of us who were activists and political organizers always said to the health care nay-sayers: When America passes a health care plan (when, not if) it would be a uniquely American plan. Not a British socialized medicine system, not a Canadian single-payer system (unfortunately) and not a French doctors-who-come-to-your-home system (again, unfortunately).
It looks like the House has agreed on a plan, which has yet to be voted on. The Senate will have a similar plan, where the voting and passage are a little more uncertain. Then the two plans, assuming they pass, will go to a conference committee, where differences will be ironed out.
So while we don't know yet exactly what our final American-style health care plan will look like, we have a pretty good idea. Here's how Ezra Klein, a Washington Post writer who's been following the health care debate very, very closely, describes the plan. "On first glance," he says, "it looks good."
It looks good to me, too. Not perfect—our current political system, with a handful of recalcitrant senators, wouldn't allow anything close to a perfect plan. And insurance lobbyists are far too powerful, especially in poor states where insurance companies have near-monopolies. But it looks good. Far better than what we have now, which is a sixth of the American population without any health insurance at all.
My measure is, as always, very personal. Last year my daughter was substitute teaching and had no insurance. In fact, she had the same health care plan many Americans have—the "DGS" plan: Don't Get Sick. Fortunately she didn't get sick, not until two months after her health insurance from her full time teaching job kicked in, and then she had to have emergency eye surgery. So I'm acutely aware of how thin the margin is between those who have and those who don't.
Of course, we'd have bankrupted ourselves to ensure our daughter kept her vision (as many Americans do), but with the new plan in the works, it looks like she'd have been able to afford health insurance—the fee is tied to income, with those making 133% of the poverty line paying 1.5% of their income for coverage. More importantly, this low-cost insurance would have actually covered any illness she had. (Many low-cost insurance plans are written in such a way that most costs aren't covered.) Plus, the plan the House proposes will mean she can't be excluded in the future for pre-existing conditions.
Check the link above for more details, and if you'd like to read the actual bill, download it here (pdf). I haven't done that yet; for now I'm outsourcing my thoughts to Ezra Klein, and also to some of the comments there.
I intend to pressure my Representatives and Senators back home to vote in favor. I also intend to send a letter to Sen. Mary Landrieu, who's the Senator from the state where my daughter lives. Her vote will be key, as she's a Blue Dog Democrat.
Let me know what you think of the plan...love it? Hate it? Wish it were more British? More French? Or just more American?
UPDATE: Jonathan Cohn, another health policy wonk, says much the same thing as Ezra, though his main concern is the amount of time it takes to kick in. (Although the pre-existing condition clause kicks in in 2010—excellent news!)