by Meredith O’Brien
Before the end of this calendar year, it’s highly likely members of the U.S. Congress will cast votes on a subject that affects each and every one of us: The future of our health insurance coverage. We’re talking about whether you can take your kids to a well child visit and how much it’ll cost you, if/when you can have things like annual mammograms and pap smears covered by insurance, how and by whom any subsequent childbirths are paid for , and if you or your spouse have changed jobs and have to apply to a new health insurance company, whether you’d be accepted if you or a family member has a “pre-existing condition.” (In some states, having had a C-section and being of child-bearing age is considered a pre-existing condition and, in some cases, may, under the current system, prevent a woman from obtaining insurance coverage .)
The issue of medical care for you and your family is a deeply personal one, and, ironically, the way health insurance reform is being played out on Capitol Hill, seems distinctly impersonal, almost as if it’s happening in some alternate universe far, far away. Have you tried following the debate about the several competing health insurance reform bills? Do you know which senators favor a government-run insurance option and which ones say non-profit insurance exchanges (otherwise known as co-ops) are the way to go? Do you know which of the three major, competing bills  will be most beneficial to small businesses owners and their employees, and which ones would level substantial financial penalties on taxpayers for NOT getting a health insurance plan ?
What? You don’t know these things right off the cuff? Not to worry. You’re not alone. A recent New York Times/CBS poll  found that nearly 60 percent of Americans find this entire debate confusing and downright labyrinthian. Even former NBC News anchor, Tom Brokaw said he’s having trouble trying to figure out exactly what lawmakers are going to vote on. “The American people are feeling left out of all this,” Brokaw said on MSNBC . “. . . It is so complex. . . I’m very dialed in, and I’m having a hard time every day keeping up to speed on all this . . . It shifts and changes every day.”
However, I’ll bet you’ve heard about these things:
-- U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) shouting, “You lie! ” during President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress about Obama’s health insurance reform proposal when the president said his plan wouldn’t cover immigrants in the country illegally.
-- U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) saying on the House floor that we have a health care “Holocaust”  in this country and that the GOP’s insurance reform proposal consists of the motto, “Die quickly.”
-- The raucous town halls  held by members of Congress over the summer where a small portion of the populace acted as though they needed a lesson or two from Miss Manners .
-- Will Farrell’s comedy web site, FunnyOrDie’s satirical viral video, seen by millions, entitled, “Protect Insurance Companies ,”(paid for by the liberal group MoveOn.org ) featuring celebrities mocking opponents of a public health insurance option, as well as wealthy insurance executives. A response video, “Listen to Overpaid Celebrities ” released at the end of last week has already been seen by hundreds of thousands.
-- During the Senate Finance Committee’s debate over its version of a health insurance reform package, an Arizona senator said he didn’t think his insurance company should be required to include maternity services in its basic policy because he said, “I don’t need maternity care .”
And that’s it, right there: A lawmaker not comprehending why there shouldn’t even be a debate about whether maternity care should be part of a basic health insurance policy, simply because men have no biological need for it, although the senator’s mother, wife and is daughter certainly did in order to produce their husband’s offspring. That’s why it’s so very important that we pay attention to what’s going on with this health insurance reform debate , which the head of the Mayo Clinic acknowledged is “pretty heartbreaking to watch.” I know that many folks would rather stick a dull spoon into their eye sockets than try to follow something that even Tom Brokaw admits is difficult to wrap your arms around.
We here at Mommy Tracked are on the case. Here are some basic logistical things you need to know and places you can regularly check in order to keep current:
According to the New York Times, the health insurance reform package  being considered by the Senate Finance Committee will be reviewed this week by the Congressional Budget Office which’ll slap an estimated price-tag on the thing. Soon after that, there’ll be a Finance Committee vote on it. After it passes (as expected) in the Finance Committee, Senate leader Harry Reid will have to reconcile this bill with another version passed by the Senate Health Committee weeks ago. The full Senate will then vote on one combined bill, the Washington Post estimates , soon after Columbus Day.
With me so far? Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi  is attempting to negotiate terms with various factions of House Democrats in order to move the House health insurance reform bill forward. Once the full House passes a bill and the full Senate passes its version (if they get that far), there’ll be one big reconciliation (re: twisting of arms and bare-knuckled negotiating) between the House and the Senate, followed by another vote in each body. (Remember the School House Rock video, “I’m Just a Bill ?” It provides a good refresher on the legislative process, plus the kids’ll like it.) President Obama says he’s hoping a health insurance reform bill will be passed by the end of the year.
What can or should you do in the meantime? Keep tabs on what’s going on and if you don’t like something, speak the heck up. The Washington Post , The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal  and the non-profit, non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation  have excellent web sites which offer comparisons of the various bills in contention, daily updates and links to actual bills. To contact your Congressman/woman , you can go to Write Your Representative , which’ll help you figure out who your rep is if you don’t already know. Contact the Senate  through the United States Senate Site .
This is your health insurance system we’re talking about. Time to citizen up.