As one who has experienced health care in the United States I have been following the debate of greater health care coverage with some interest. The vote in the Senate on Christmas Eve was in fact an historical event of considerable proportion. Barack Obama is to be congratulated on his success in getting the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass these health care bills. It is 44 years since a Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson passed his Medicare and Medicaid bills to extend coverage to the old and unemployed, but this left many millions of uninsured low paid Americans still without coverage. Obama and Johnson succeeded where Harry Truman, John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton failed. Clinton tried to pass a comprehensive health care bill in his first year as President in 1992 but failed to get it through a Democratic controlled Congress in 1993.
The bill passed by the House of Representative is more comprehensive than that passed by the Senate, the House bill costs of $1 trillion over 10 years and extends coverage to 96% of the population whilst the Senate bill costs $871 billion over 10 years and extends coverage to 94% of the population. The hard task now is to reconcile both bills but the final bill will look more like the Senate than the House bill.
The vote in the Senate was along party lines with 60 in favour and 39 against anything less than 60 votes would have resulted in the Democrats not having sufficient votes to stop a Republican filibuster (delaying tactics). The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to compromise to the end especially on abortion to get two wavering senators, Independant and ex Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman and Nebraska's conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, on board.
It will be a historical day when Obama signs this bill into law and perhaps to mark the occasion he should sign it at the Johnson family ranch in Texas's Hill Country with Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of LBJ. Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare and Medicaid bills at the home of President Harry S Truman in Independence, Missouri in 1965, even though Johnson had voted against Truman's health care bills in 1948.