When Is an Imperfect Bill Better Than No Bill?

One doesn’t have to read far into the posts by bloggers on my reading list to find them urgently arguing that House Democrats should pass the Senate’s health reform bill if Brown wins the Massachusetts special election giving Republicans a filibuster- preserving 41 votes in the Senate. Though I prefer many provisions in the House bill, I agree that the Senate bill should prevail if the alternative is no bill. After all, an imperfect bill beats no bill when it:

  • Extends health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, some of them barred from the current market and intelligible for public programs.
  • Does so with assistance for low-income families for whom insurance would otherwise be unaffordable.
  • Corrects over-payments to Medicare plans and re-invests those funds in extending coverage to those who lack it.
  • Institutes much needed reforms in the individual- and small-group insurance markets so they work better for consumers and small businesses, not just for insurance companies.
  • Establishes exchanges within which offered plans must meet guidelines that will help consumers shop for insurance with greater confidence that they’re not getting ripped off.
  • Initiates demonstrations and pilot programs that will experiment with alternative provider payment methods.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, demonstrates that progress on a pressing problem can be made.

There are many other reasons to prefer the Senate bill to no bill. Other than the political, what’s a comparable list of reasons to prefer no bill or to prefer the status quo, which amounts to the same thing?

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