I live in Austin, and the sun came up here this morning. I bet it came up where you live too. Isn’t that amazing? The U.S. House passes health care reform, and despite the doomsday predictions of the Rabid Right, life goes on. More importantly, millions of Americans will soon have an opportunity at healthier lives, thanks to passage of this landmark piece of legislation.
You already have heard the national statistics. An additional 32 million Americans eventually will get health coverage, and consumers finally will get a number of important safeguards against insurance company abuses when the overhaul fully kicks in. One of the most important reforms will prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people who have preexisting medical conditions, the very people who often have the most critical need for health care.
Although you can’t tell it by listening to the state’s Republican leadership, Texas stands to receive some of the biggest benefits from the new law, mainly because Texas leads the country in the percentage of residents who currently have no health insurance. The new law eventually will mean coverage for more than 4 million of the 6 million Texans who now lack coverage, according to some estimates. Many of those will be children in public school classrooms. Healthier children will be better able to learn.
The Texas State Teachers Association and the National Education Association fully support the new law. Texas teachers and other school employees already have access to health insurance, either through their districts’ own policies or through the Teacher Retirement System’s ActiveCare program. But the new law may enable many educators to find more affordable coverage. And teachers, like all consumers, will benefit from the new consumer protections.
Despite these prospects for a healthier Texas, all of the state’s Republicans in the U.S. House and one Democrat (Chet Edwards of Waco) voted against the health reform bill, claiming, among other things, that it will bankrupt consumers with higher taxes (it won’t) and will penalize small businesses that don’t buy insurance for their workers. In fact, businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be exempt.
Continuing to fan misinformation after the bill had passed, Gov. Rick Perry characterized expanded health care as an expansion of “socialism on American soil.” McCarthylite lives!
And Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he would sue (using your tax dollars) to try to block the new law. He said his challenge would “protect all Texans’ constitutional rights,” believing, I guess, that we have a constitutional right to get sick and not be able to afford a doctor.