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Locals react to House passing health-care bill

BY KEVIN HOFFMAN | NOVEMBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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UI professors say the health-care reform bill passed this weekend by the House is “historic” — though it’s still far from a victory for the Obama administration.

Representatives approved the bill by a narrow margin, 220-215, with the support of 219 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Joseph Cao, R-La. Of the 215 who voted against the legislation, 39 were Democrats.

The three Iowa Democrats supported the bill, and the two Republicans opposed it.

“It’s interesting that it was so close,” said UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle. “But not particularly surprising, because there were a lot of Blue Dog Democrats that had great concerns about various aspects of the bill.”

If implemented, the bill would extend coverage to 36 million underinsured Americans and provide affordable care to an estimated 96 percent of the population.

President Obama praised the House for its “courageous” and “historic” vote.

But UI health management and policy Professor Samuel Levey said he’s unsure if lawmakers have spent enough time analyzing the 2,000-page bill.

Levey said waiting a couple more years could bring a new coalition of legislators to develop a more comprehensive bill.

“Personally, I think it’s tragic we haven’t had some kind of legislation on universal health care,” he said. “I think we do need it. The problem is how it’s constructed.”

The biggest problem with the bill is its cost, in his opinion, and he notes he’s worried health-care expenses “are going to keep spiraling upward.”

“I’m not sure we have mechanisms in place to do much about it,” Levey said.

UI sophomore Jennifer Pray said she is looking forward to what comes out of the legislation.

“I think it’s really exciting because it’s such a historic event,” she said. “I think health care has problems that need to be addressed.”

But others weren’t as pleased.

Karen Kubby, the former executive director of the Emma Goldman Clinic, 227 N. Dubuque St., said she is disappointed with a provision in the bill that cuts federal funds for abortion.

“I realize that Congress needs to make compromises, but what it has done is compromise one of the most basic health-care procedures women seek,” she said.

With the abortion amendment, it will be difficult for many poor women to pay for that medical care themselves, she said.

“It makes any kind of public health plan not as viable for women,” she said. “It’s really kind of dysfunctional for women.”

The Senate will now draft its version of a health-care bill, and it will need affirmative votes from 60 senators to override any attempted Republican filibuster. Of the 100 senators, 57 are Democrats and two are independents.

Hagle said it will be difficult for the Senate to pass legislation quickly, noting there are several versions of the bill floating around in different committees.

“It’s a step forward, but certainly not quite a victory yet,” Hagle said.

If the Senate passes a health-care bill, both chambers will then need to reconcile the bills and pass a comprehensive version again before it hits Obama’s desk.

“It’s progressing, but it’s hard to say,” Hagle said. “I doubt, at this point, anything is going to happen this year.”


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