News Reports Estimate as many as 25 Million Americans Would STILL Lack Coverage
With its vote on Saturday, the United States Senate advanced its version of a healthcare reform bill one step further. Now, in both the House and Senate, full floor debate will begin on the different healthcare reform bills that have reached the floor in each body.
Looming in the background, however, is the failure of each of these 2,000-page proposed bills to extend universal coverage to all residents of the United States. This is notable fact, since, over the course of 2009, advocates of an immediate legislative overhaul of the healthcare system in the United States declared their goal was to extend health coverage to all of the estimated 46 million Americans who currently lack health coverage.
Thus, it is a revealing contradiction between the political rhetoric and the proposed legislation based by the Senate and the House. According to the Wall Street Journal, as currently written, the bills soon to come up for a vote would still leave millions of Americans without coverage.
In a story published on November 13, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Senate version of healthcare reform would leave as many as 6% of “legal U.S. residents” without health coverage. The number was marginally better in the House healthcare reform bill, which the WSJ noted would leave 4% of legal U.S. residents uncovered. It estimated that the Senate bill would leave 25 million Americans without health coverage while the House bill would leave 18 million Americans without coverage.
Table prepared by the Wall Street Journal showing the number of Americans uninsured by the House bill and the Senate bill. (© Wall Street Journal 2009)
In its reporting on the Senate vote, the Associated Press said that the Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the Senate healthcare reform bill would cost the nation approximately $979 billion over a decade, The Associated Press further said that the Senate bill would extend health coverage to 94% of the eligible population, a number which matches what the Wall Street Journal reported on November 13.
There are two ironies to this situation. If the stated primary goal of healthcare reformers was to extend healthcare coverage to all residents of the United States as a primary objective, then the healthcare reform bills in each house of Congress fall far short of that mark—even as each bill requires substantial additional spending. Moreover, a significant amount of the funds needed to support this spending would come from a range of taxes and levies on different types of healthcare services or health insurance benefits. In turn, these “health service taxes” would themselves require both citizens and employees to spend more money—thus accelerating the year-to-year cost of healthcare in this country.
The second irony is that a leading voice advocating universal health coverage has been the hospital industry. It continually reminds Congress that the cost of providing uncompensated care to millions of uninsured Americans who show up in hospital emergency rooms threatens the fiscal solvency of thousands of the nations’ hospitals. Yet, in both the Senate and House bills, as many as 25 million Americans will still lack health benefits coverage if either bill is enacted into law in its current form.
By the way, don’t forget that the hospital industry agreed to accept $155 billion in lower healthcare funding over the next ten years as its contribution to fund the expansion in coverage. As events unfold, there is the distinct possibility that, with millions of Americans still without health coverage after passage of federal legislation, the hospital industry would still have a major financial drain because of uncompensated care provided to patients lacking health coverage.
For these reasons, clinical laboratory managers and pathologists should not be surprised if the final form of healthcare reform legislation that passes Congress and is signed into law by the president fails to provide universal coverage to all residents of the United States.