Legions of “Harry Potter” fans are running to movie theaters today for the much-anticipated release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” But Washington’s attention isn’t on the bespectacled wizard and his pals – it is focused on the proposed overhaul of our nation’s health care system.
Depending who you talk to, the various health care proposals being debated by several House and Senate committees either will provide the magical cure for the nation’s flawed system or serve to bring about its destruction. Earlier today, the Senate HELP Committee by a party line vote passed its version of the “Affordable Health Choices Act,” which is estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to cost $611 billion over ten years. The Senate bill provides a public plan and a “play or pay” mandate that requires employers to provide health insurance.
Three House Committees—Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor—begin marking up the House health care overhaul proposal this week. Estimated to cost $1.042 trillion over ten years, the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act” (H.R. 3200) creates a Health Insurance Exchange system, includes a “public option” for insurance, expands Medicaid, and imposes new requirements on employer-sponsored health plans.
Will these proposals work like Harry Potter’s “protego” charm, protecting and advancing the health of Americans, more than 45 million of whom currently lack health insurance? Or will the changes increase costs and threaten employer-sponsored plans, tormenting the insurance market like the unforgiveable “cruciatus” curse? Time will tell.