Policy Documents

On Christmas Eve, Democrats Push Health Care Plan Through Senate

Thomas Cheplick and Benjamin Domenech –
January 1, 2011

 

In the early hours of Christmas Eve on Capitol Hill, Democrats in the Senate pushed through a massive reform of health care in America on a party-line vote.

Passed by a 60-39 margin, the plan includes an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, sweeping new regulations for the insurance industry and employers, and is funded through a host of new taxes, fines, penalties, and cuts to Medicare.

Speaking to a news conference following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the bill’s passage “brings us one step closer to making Ted Kennedy’s dream a reality.”

Unpopular and Partisan

In a floor speech prior to the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the bill “a monstrosity.”

“The one test of success for any bill was whether it would lower costs. This bill fails that test,” McConnell said. “This debate was supposed to produce a bill that reformed health care in America. Instead, we’re left with party line votes in the middle of the night, a couple of sweetheart deals to get it over the finish line, and a public that’s outraged.”

According to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a health policy expert at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, the Democrats achieved their victory without popular support, thanks to their firm margins.

“Polls show us the more people looked at the health care plan, the fewer wanted it,” Furchtgott-Roth said. “The Senate plan is unworkable and unsustainable, not just because of the effects of price controls and taxes, but because the penalty for not having health insurance is relatively low. Insurance companies will be forced to take anyone who is sick.”

Issues to Resolve

Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute, believes the White House will declare victory at the President's 2010 State of the Union address, then pivot to other issues.

“They wanted a bill passed by Christmas, and a conference concluded before the State of the Union address,” Pipes said. “But there are many arguments to resolve.”

These issues include several areas where the House and Senate bills differ – including taxpayer funding for abortions, the status of Cadillac plans, and the public option – and must be resolved before final passage.

According to Furchtgott-Roth, opposition to this reform will continue.

“This is a lot like the 1993 ClintonCare situation, or the catastrophic health care law which Republicans repealed immediately,” Furchtgott-Roth said. “With such an unpopular bill, the majority is going to feel pushback and lose seats. The question is whether it will be enough to change this plan.”

Thomas Cheplick (thomascheplick@yahoo.com) writes from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ben Domenech (bdomenech@heartland.org) is managing editor of Health Care News.

Additional Resources:

Listen to a Health Care News podcast with Ben Domenech and Peter Fotos of The Heartland Institute on the post-Senate health care strategy.

From the left, read David Broder: A Health Care Victory That Stinks, and from the right, Scott Gottlieb: Patients Will Lose.

On the abortion issue, Bart Stupak insists he will not be "bought."

The Wall Street Journal highlights six key numbers to take away from the current plan, and information on when changes will take effect.