NO QUESTION about it, the health reform bill passed last November by the House of Representatives with the vote of Representative Stephen Lynch has advantages over the one approved by the Senate. But Lynch is making a grievous error in putting this once-in-a-generation chance for health reform at risk by refusing to support the Senate bill especially since Democrats plan to alter some of its most controversial provisions with a separate corrective package.
Lynchs announcement yesterday caused much head-scratching not least because of one of the reasons he gave. He faulted the Senate bill for not letting states set up a public insurance plan for people who are required by the bill to get coverage. But last year it was Lynchs failure to embrace a public option that caused labor leaders, formerly among his strongest backers, to deny him a chance to speak at their Labor Day breakfast.
Lynch also faults the Senate bill for the tax it places on high-cost Cadillac insurance policies, some of which are held by union members. But the corrective package would reduce that tax substantially and delay it until 2018. Lynch and other critics of the Cadillac tax would have ample time to find other ways to put downward pressure on costs and finance the subsidies that will help extend coverage to the 31 million people who lack it.
Those are the Americans who will suffer most if health reform goes down to defeat because Lynch and others let their quibbles blind them to its history-making achievement. Lynch calls the bill a giveaway to the insurance industry, ignoring its provisions stripping that industry of the freedom to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or place life-time limits on benefits.
Lynch should recognize that the bill, however imperfect, breaks the logjam, as AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka put it yesterday. Lynch should be working to see that reform is improved after it is on the books, not to kill it in the cradle.