Sign Post

President Obama is going to sign the Senate health care bill into law in about 15 minutes. It’s a big deal.

However… this will all be an even bigger deal when the reconciliation bill successfully makes it through the Senate and the President signs that into law too.

The reconciliation bill improves the Senate bill – in a big way – by making health care more affordable, fixing the excise tax, getting us closer to fair financing by increasing taxes on people who make more than $250,000/year, closing the doughnut hole for seniors, killing the special deals, and giving the states more money for Medicaid.

When that’s done, I will be able to breathe a true sigh of relief and celebrate.

Giving Thanks

We’re debuting a new TV ad today. It will be up in 14 districts tomorrow. Here’s the press release. Here’s Richard’s key quote:

“From now through the rest of the year, we’ll be telling the same story all around the country. By passing health insurance reform, Congress stood up against the special interests in Washington and their political allies and did what’s right for families and small businesses.”

Here’s one of the ads:

We Did It (pt 1)

H.R. 4872…

Passed! 220.


For The Record

CNN’s breaking news email says:

House passes health care reform, the most sweeping social legislation in more than four decades.

Mom’s text message says:

YEA!!!!! I love you

While We’re Waiting

Good stuff from Donna at Reuters:

Here is what to expect if the bill becomes law:


*Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted.

*Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

*Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college.

*Uninsured adults with a pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain health coverage through a new program that will expire once new insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014.

*A temporary reinsurance program is created to help companies maintain health coverage for early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64. This also expires in 2014.

*Medicare drug beneficiaries who fall into the “doughnut hole” coverage gap will get a $250 rebate. The bill eventually closes that gap which currently begins after $2,700 is spent on drugs. Coverage starts again after $6,154 is spent.

*A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.

*A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services that use ultraviolet lamps goes into effect on July 1.


*Medicare provides 10 percent bonus payments to primary care physicians and general surgeons.

*Medicare beneficiaries will be able to get a free annual wellness visit and personalized prevention plan service. New health plans will be required to cover preventive services with little or no cost to patients.

*A new program under the Medicaid plan for the poor goes into effect in October that allows states to offer home and community based care for the disabled that might otherwise require institutional care.

*Payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage services are frozen at 2010 levels. These payments are to be gradually reduced to bring them more in line with traditional Medicare.

*Employers are required to disclose the value of health benefits on employees’ W-2 tax forms.

*An annual fee is imposed on pharmaceutical companies according to market share. The fee does not apply to companies with sales of $5 million or less.


*Physician payment reforms are implemented in Medicare to enhance primary care services and encourage doctors to form “accountable care organizations” to improve quality and efficiency of care.

*An incentive program is established in Medicare for acute care hospitals to improve quality outcomes.

*The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the government programs, begin tracking hospital readmission rates and puts in place financial incentives to reduce preventable readmissions.


*A national pilot program is established for Medicare on payment bundling to encourage doctors, hospitals and other care providers to better coordinate patient care.

*The threshold for claiming medical expenses on itemized tax returns is raised to 10 percent from 7.5 percent of income. The threshold remains at 7.5 percent for the elderly through 2016.

*The Medicare payroll tax is raised to 2.35 percent from 1.45 percent for individuals earning more than $200,000 and married couples with incomes over $250,000. The tax is imposed on some investment income for that income group.

*A 2.9 percent excise tax in imposed on the sale of medical devices. Anything generally purchased at the retail level by the public is excluded from the tax.


*State health insurance exchanges for small businesses and individuals open.

*Most people will be required to obtain health insurance coverage or pay a fine if they don’t. Healthcare tax credits become available to help people with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty purchase coverage on the exchange.

*Health plans no longer can exclude people from coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

*Employers with 50 or more workers who do not offer coverage face a fine of $2,000 for each employee if any worker receives subsidized insurance on the exchange. The first 30 employees aren’t counted for the fine.

*Health insurance companies begin paying a fee based on their market share.


*Medicare creates a physician payment program aimed at rewarding quality of care rather than volume of services.


*An excise tax on high cost employer-provided plans is imposed. The first $27,500 of a family plan and $10,200 for individual coverage is exempt from the tax. Higher levels are set for plans covering retirees and people in high risk professions.

This Is It (pt 1)

We’ve still got to get the reconciliation bill through the Senate and the President’s got to sign the bills into law, but tonight’s vote is the first of those three final steps.

It is history.

I’m watching CSPAN and eating Cheez-Its. They are my celebratory snack of choice.

See you back here after the vote.

UPDATE: Richard’s in good company tonight. Live Pulse:

In Pelosi’s box tonight

Speaker’s Gallery guests:

1. Mr. Pelosi
2. Nancy Corinne Prowda (daughter)
3. Alexandra Pelosi (daughter)
4. Michiel Vos (son-in-law)
5. Gordon Witman, PICO
6. Richard Kirsch – Health Care for America Now (HCAN)
7. Robert Hall – American Academy of Pediatrics
8. Rich Trumka – AFL-CIO
9. Dr. Willarda Edwards – National Medical Association
10. Ari Matusiak, President – Young Invincibles Want Change
11. Christina Romer – Council of Economic Advisors
12. Mark Duggan – Council of Economic Advisors
13. Zeke Emanuel – Senior Advisor for Health Policy, OMB
14. Jason Furman – National Economic Council Advisor
15. Nancy Ann DeParle – White House Office of Health Care Reform

Cool locale, but I bet they don’t offer Cheez-Its.

UPDATE 2: Hotline and SFGate posted the guest list too.

Goodnight Moon

Random Lessons Learned This Week

1. Blue nail polish is tougher to remove than you might expect.

2. NPR is not above using bizarre “whip” sound effects to illustrate the process of locking down Congressional votes. I’ll link to it if I can find the clip. No luck yet.

3. Filling out the Census form is really, really simple.

4. If you outnumber the crazies 50 to 1 – as in 50 people for reform and one guy against – some in the media will still feel compelled to imply that both sides were equally represented. Two reports from the exact same rally:

NBC 8: “People both for and against the health care plan are out in front of Tim Holden’s office…”

CBS 21: “There was just one person at the rally today [who was] against health care reform.”

5. See illustration above. Not learned but relearned.

That’s all for now. Happy Friday.

In Their Own Words

All this week, we are debuting videos of insurance abuse survivors telling their stories to prove – once again – why Congress must vote for health care reform. Today’s video features Susan Braig from Altadena, CA. She is a breast cancer survivor who is struggling financially because her health insurer has defined cancer as “chronic” not “catastrophic.”

Yesterday, we featured Matt Masterson from Virginia Beach, VA who’s been financially destroyed by medical costs. He’s only 40, and his son has diabetes. Matt says of his 17-year-old son, “He’s looking at a lifetime of hardship and battle” if we don’t do something about our health care system now.

And the first video this week spotlighted Marcelas Owens – the 11-year-old from Seattle who lost his mother because she couldn’t afford to see a doctor when she needed care the most.

Tuesday night on MSNBC’s Countdown, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Hayes addressed the right-wing attacks (Beck, Malkin, and Limbaugh) on little Marcelas. Yup, Rush, Glenn, and Michelle think it’s totally ok to attack an 11-year old boy. That clip is here.

In other outrageous news today, Noam Levey reports in the Los Angeles Times that WellPoint, back in 2007, promised to spend $30 million to help the uninsured. They’ve spent $6.2 million while making $10.5 billion in profits, paying their CEOs at least $28.5 million, and buying back $12.1 billion of their own stock. Here’s our release with the details and Richard’s quote on the issue:

“Ten billion dollars in profits and $28 million in CEO compensation, and yet they couldn’t meet their promise to spend $30 million over three years on the uninsured? It’s no wonder that Americans understand the insurance industry is lying when it says it’s for reform,” said Richard Kirsch, National Campaign Manager, Health Care for America Now. “They have zero interest in doing anything to expand coverage of the uninsured and only talk about it when it helps them score political points. What else are they hiding? How many stories like this do we have to uncover before we acknowledge they just can’t be trusted?

Triple Threat

I’ve done three good radio interviews in the past 2 days.

The first was with Rich Hancock yesterday morning. You can watch the video of his chat with me here. I hit at about 3:30 in.

The second was with Ed Schultz yesterday afternoon, but I’m not subscribed to his podcasts so I can’t link you up with that one.

The third was this morning at 7:30am with Lorraine Jacques-White of WAOK radio in Atlanta.

I hadn’t had a single drop of coffee before hitting the air this A.M. so now it’s official: I can talk about health care reform in my sleep!