Health care debate heats up in Chicago area

March 22, 2010 4:28:47 AM PDT
Similar to other historic pieces of legislation, such as Social Security, health care reform has been hotly debated. The pros and cons have fallen down party lines.

There are no Republicans in Illinois or elsewhere that support the bill. However, there are major lobbying organizations that once opposed health care reform who are now supporters.

From the streets in Illinois and across the country to the U.S. House floor, the health care reform debate has been going on for a year.

Sunday night, Pres. Barack Obama achieved his goal of providing health insurance for all Americans. It is accomplishment that the American Medical Association calls exhilarating.

"Denials based on pre-existing conditions will be prohibited. Differences in premiums based on gender and disease state will no longer be there. It really is monumental. As I say, it's not perfec, but it is monumental, and patients will benefit greatly," said Dr. Cecil Wilson, president-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA).

The AMA admits the health care reform bill is far from perfect, but the doctors organization says at least it is a start

Republicans see the legislation as start to the government takeover of health care.

"I think a lot of Republicans, including me, feel the government is not the most efficient way to do anything, and we don't like the fact that the government is now interfering on our decision on how we get medical treatment," said Illinois Republican Party leader Pat Brady.

But Democrats say insurance for those already covered will not change. To cover the 32 million uninsured, the legislation will eventually require most Americans to buy health care insurance. The government will provide subsidies for those who cannot afford it.

The bill will cost an estimated $940 billion over the next 10 years.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports, in the long run, the bill will actually cut the deficit.

"Nobody believes that the third largest entitlement in history of the United States is going to save money at the end of the day," Brady said.

While they differ on the legislation, both political parties agree that the huge bill will continue to be hotly debated during this coming election season, maybe even cost some elections.

"It is so enormous. It is so expensive. It covers so much that, right now, the only thing people can really get their hands around is the political side of it. So, today, politics trumps policy," said Paul Green, a political science professor with Roosevelt University.

Green says there are a handful of congressional races in the Chicago suburbs that may be won or lost by Sunday night's vote.

Many experts say it may be years before anyone will ever understand the ramifications of the legislation, including the costs.

What the health reform bill means for Americans

When the bill is signed into law by President Obama, children will be able to remain on their parents' insurance until they turn 26, and no company can refuse to insure a child because he or she has a pre-existing condition.

Then, it will take another four years before all adults can get insurance without regard for pre-existing conditions. All uninsured Americans will have to have coverage or face a fine. The government will provide subsidies to those with low incomes to buy that insurance.