This morning at FireDogLake, Jane Hamsher points out that stock prices for insurance companies have risen since Joe Lieberman announced he'd filibuster reform over the public option. She ends her item with this statement:
If this thing passes, and the corruption behind this bill becomes effectively demagogued by the GOP, I hope those fighting to pass this on behalf of the “poor” are going to enjoy wearing it.
Hamsher is correct when she writes that the health care industry will, by and large, benefit from reform. She's also correct to highlight the many corruption stories that need telling, to say nothing of the ones already told.
But what's with the quote marks around "poor"?*
This bill would mean Medicaid coverage for an additional 15 million people a year, all of them living below or just above the poverty line. For a sense of scale, that's more than double the entire population now covered by the state Children's Health Insurance Program.
This bill would also subsidize coverage in the exchanges for (roughly) another 15 million people a year, the majority of whom would also qualify as low-income by any reasonable standard.
Do the math, and that would be insurance for at least 20 million poor people--making it, arguably, the single most progressive initiative in a generation.
But don't take my word for it. Here's my colleague Harold Pollack, writing over at Huffington Post:
Fully implemented, the bill would provide about $200 billion per year down the income scale in subsidies to poor, near-poor, and working Americans.
$200 billion is a big number. It exceeds the combined total of federal spending on Food Stamps and all nutrition assistance programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, TANF cash payments to single mothers and their children, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Institutes of Health.
It's one thing to point out the very real flaws in the Senate bill, as some of Hamsher's own FDL colleagues have done, and to generate the political pressure necessary for fixing those flaws. It's another thing altogether to dismiss or ignore the enormous good the bill would still do.
*I also wouldn't say that those of us who believe in this bill are defending it strictly because of what it would do for the poor. What it would do for the middle class is just as important.