Friday, October 30, 2009

Stark back to Sticking it to the Rich

Rep. Pete Stark has publicly stated he would vote for almost any bill that gives over 95 percent of Americans health insurance and now he has one.

The 10-year, $894 billion bill announced yesterday is similar to the Stark-sponsored bill in late July which was pilloried for being too costly. Notably, the new bill retains a 5.4 percent surtax on individuals making more than $500,000 and couples making over a million. The Senate disagreed with such a tax in its previous form. “As we've worked to reduce the overall cost of this bill, I am most proud that we've done so without shifting greater costs to middle and lower income families,” said Stark.

An estimated 36 million Americans would gain health insurance under the plan allowing 96 percent of the nation to be covered by often times costly medical prescriptions and procedures. Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday touted a return of the vaunted public option where the government would negotiate prices with insurance companies.

Stark, who is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, has been a n ardent supporter of the public option, even though many of his progressive constituents have urged him to support a more comprehensive single-payer plan said, “A strong public health insurance option is a key component to holding down those costs by injecting real competition and accountability into the health care marketplace.

But, in a story picked up nationally by the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead, the public option would shutout 90 percent of the population.

House and Senate bills limit the option to the smallest businesses and to individuals who cannot get insurance, or whose health care costs exceed 12.5 percent of their income. Even seven years into an overhaul, an estimated 90 percent of Americans, including nearly everyone who has employer-based coverage now, would be shut out of a public option.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post, chose the day after the unveiling of the House's newest health care reform bill to rehash an eight month old story previously published in March by Bloomberg News. The story alleged four members of Congress, including Stark, received a $4,000 tax break in Maryland in violation of House ethics rules. Stark lists his residence in Anne Arundel County, but is registered to vote in California. The state of Maryland enacted strict rules against the homestead tax after 2007.

Despite no official announcement on whether Stark will be stuck with any ethics violations, the Post coincidentally published a story without any relevant new information on a key member of Congress hoping to enact health care reform. It just goes to show you how politically charged every move of this debate has become and how any notable law that arises from this battle will be a minor miracle.
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