If you’ve looked at the news (newspaper, TV, radio, or internet) at all in this past week, the only national story outside of entertainment that has garnered any real attention is the ongoing health care debate in Washington. Depending on which source you go to, you’re likely to hear everything from the health care bill being an answer to prayers for the working man to the passage of the bill as the beginning of the end of the United States as a constitutional republic. So why is it all heating up so much this week and what does it mean to you?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced earlier this week that there would be a vote in the House sometime on Sunday. Initially, we were told that the vote would include a controversial procedure called “Deem and Pass,” which would allow the House to vote on a Senate bill passed just before Christmas as well as another bill that would “reconcile” the House and Senate versions all at once. Protests came in throughout the country with over 100,000 phone calls per hour Friday at the Capitol switchboard. Republicans and moderate Democrats decried the procedure as a back-door way to pass the bill without ever bringing the Health Care bill itself to the floor for an up or down vote. Earlier today, reports started to come out of the Democratic leadership indicating that they might be wavering on the use of that procedure and that a straight up or down vote on the Senate bill could occur. News sources are keeping an hourly count of the votes. The Democrats need 216 votes to pass the bill.
What the passage of this bill means to Gainesville families is unclear. If you believe the Democrats, those of us with health insurance will see no changes. Those without will get health insurance in about 4 years. And the deficit will be reduced dramatically. If you believe the Republicans, we will all start getting taxed now with no change in services for 4 years unless you already have government health care through Medicaid or Medicare. They argue that those individuals will begin to have a tougher time getting quality care almost immediately, small businesses will cease to grow beyond 50 people, and private insurance rates will skyrocket.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has already announced that he will file a federal lawsuit challenging constitutionality of the bill if it becomes law. Gainesville’s Representative, Cliff Stearns (R), has voice strong opposition to the current Health Care bill.