Making a lot of professional pundits -- and respondents of a recent Snipsmag.com poll -- wrong, the U.S. House passed a health care reform bill late last night. It now goes to President Barack Obama for a signature.
Except for some procedural maneuvers that Senate Republicans can use during the filibuster-busting reconciliation process on the expected cleanup legislation, the fight is mostly over. About 30 million more Americans will eventually have access to health care, which is good. But it will cost close to a trillion dollars and take about four years to fully go into effect. And most people with existing employer-based coverage will see little change and are still expected to suffer rate increases in coming years.
As I've written before, I was not a strong opponent or supporter of the health care bills. I liked some of the provisions and did not believe the "death panel" rhetoric, but thought the whole package was too expensive, especially when you consider most people with group insurance will not notice many improvements in coverage or costs.
Some individuals and small companies previously unable to get insurance will benefit, although it will likely cost them more than a group plan, even with government subsidies.
Politically, it will be interesting to see what this does to the Obama presidency and Democrats' control of Congress. Democrats are near certain to lose a number of seats in the House and possibly several in the Senate this November. The party in power almost always does in midterm elections, and the unpopularity of Congress could flip House control to the GOP. But if Democrats are able to keep loses to the historical average -- about 25 in the House and a couple in the Senate -- then the gamble of pushing such a large program through may well pay off, especially if it grows in popularity.