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This Day in Health-Care History

Lest we forget: exactly four years ago today, Senate Democrats rammed through what would later be called ObamaCare, on a purely partisan vote, ignoring warnings it would be a BFD (big future disaster). On Thursday, December 24, 2009, the New York Times reported on the week:

The vote on Monday, in the dead of night, was 60 to 40. The vote on Tuesday, just after daybreak, was 60 to 39. And the vote on Wednesday afternoon, at a civil hour but after less-than-civil debate, was 60 to 39 again — an immutable tally that showed Democrats unwavering in the march to adopt a far-reaching overhaul of the health care system …

The health care legislation was approved Thursday morning, with the Senate divided on party lines — something that has not happened in modern times on so important a shift in domestic policy, or on major legislation of any kind, lawmakers and Congressional historians said. The Democrats flaunted their unity on Wednesday at a news conference with nearly their entire caucus in attendance.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), 92 years old, had been pushed onto the Senate floor in a wheelchair, placing “no small burden on the frail nonagenarian” (unable even to deliver his customary Christmas address on the Senate floor); there was not a vote, nor a moment, to spare. The Times illustrated the action in the Senate “to reinvent the nation’s health care system” with three quotes from Democratic senators:

Hostility to the health insurance industry was a theme running through the Senate debate. Senator Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio], said insurance companies were often “just one step ahead of the sheriff.’’ Senator Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], said the industry “lacks a moral compass.’’ … Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI], said the business model of the health insurance industry deserved to die. “It deserves a stake through its cold and greedy heart,’’ Mr. Whitehouse said.

Shortly after 9 a.m., a pleased president praised the Senate and immediately left for his vacation in Hawaii. The bill had given him, he said, 95 percent of what he wanted. It had been only three and a half months since September 9, when the president had appeared before a joint session of Congress and a national TV audience to deliver an address that emphasized two things:

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.  (Applause.)  Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

Second, the president extolled Congress on his new insurance exchange, where he said people would be able to shop “at competitive prices,” with tax credits for those who couldn’t afford them. And best of all:

This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right.



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