Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold says he’s generally satisfied with the Senate health care reform bill which passed early Thursday. Feingold says the bill allows for changes in Medicare reimbursement formulas, which he says have “ripped off Wisconsin for decades.” Also, the bill does not penalize Wisconsin, which has been a leader in providing health care to low-income residents. “This bill could have made it so the states that were the worst actors got the most benefits,” Feingold says. “We were able to reverse that.” Feingold says the bill will provide very significant financial help to Wisconsin.
Feingold is disappointed that the Senate bill, which passed on a 60-39 vote, does not include a public option – but says that could still be a feature of the final bill that gets hammered out by a House-Senate conference committee. “The only way to get a public option is by passing a bill through the Senate, so we have a chance to have those negotiations,” he says.
The legislation would ban the insurance industry from denying benefits or charging higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. The Congressional Budget Office predicts the bill will reduce deficits by $130 billion over the next 10 years, an estimate that assumes lawmakers carry through on hundreds of billions of dollars in planned cuts to insurance companies and doctors, hospitals and others who treat Medicare patients.
For the first time, the government would require nearly every American to carry insurance, and subsidies would be provided to help low-income people to do so. Employers would be induced to cover their employees through a combination of tax credits and penalties. The legislation costs nearly $1 trillion over 10 years and is paid for by a combination of taxes, fees and cuts to Medicare.
Feingold expects a finished product to be ready for the president’s signature before the end of next month, prior to the State of The Union address.