Being naughty or nice has nothing to do with it.
As the Senate prepares to work up to and maybe through Christmas to pass a healthcare bill, the emerging legislation is shaping up as a veritable gift list of goodies weighed down by more than a few lumps of coal.
The legislation is still far from a done deal. Whatever the Senate passes, if anything, must be reconciled with a House version before it can go to President Obama for his signature. That could take as long as until Easter.
Still, Santa may want to start packing his sled for:
Twentysomethings: They would get to stay on their parents' health care policies after they leave school, a time when many are out of work, don't get insurance at their jobs or can't afford to buy coverage on their own.
People with disabilities: Home care aides, bathtub grab bars, transportation and other nonmedical services would be covered under a long-term care insurance program known as the CLASS Act. Short for Community Living Services and Support, the program was championed by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. But it also has critics, including Democrats, one of whom called it a Ponzi scheme.
Low-income people without kids: For the first time since Medicaid was created in 1965, poor and low-income people without dependent children will be eligible for the federal healthcare program for the poor in all states. Until now, only some states covered them and most on Medicaid have been low-income single mothers and their children.
Seniors with high drug costs: A last-minute addition to the Senate bill would close the "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage. That would save seniors who take a lot of medication up to $3,610 next year after their first $2,700 in prescription costs.
Drug companies: They can continue to block cheaper prescription drugs at the Canadian border and from other countries that sell identical medicines for less. True, “Big Pharma” had to help plug the "doughnut hole" (see above) in order to kill the drug-importation bill. Still, for the industry, this is one gift that will keep on giving.
The insurance industry: They will get millions of new customers under health insurance exchanges for people who can't afford coverage now. Plus, as an added stocking stuffer, they won't have to compete with a government-run public option thanks to their home state senator, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who deep-sixed the idea.
For others, the bill before the Senate could be the Grinch who stole Christmas:
Plastic surgeons and their patients: A five percent "botax" on elective cosmetic surgery such as face-lifts and tummy tucks makes it tough to transform this lump of coal into a diamond.
Seniors in Medicare Advantage: Both the House and Senate bills would cut billions in subsidies to private insurers who run these plans, which offer more services than traditional Medicare. Critics say the plans cost 14 percent more per senior than for those in traditional Medicare, who often buy "Medigap" plans to cover out-of-pocket expenses. Medicare Advantage seniors stand to lose such perks as health club memberships and free aspirin.
Union members: The so-called "Cadillac tax" in the current Senate bill would slap an excise tax on middle-class workers whose employers offer high-cost health plans. Many of those belong to unions that bargained away bigger paychecks in exchange for more generous benefits.
Low- and moderate-income workers with employer-paid benefits: Thought you were lucky to have health insurance through your employer? Think again. Under the Senate plan, workers with job-based coverage would get up to thousands of dollars less in subsidies than families with the same income who buy into proposed insurance exchanges.
Baby boomers: Uninsured adults ages 55 to 64 would have been able to "buy in" early to Medicare under a deal proposed after Lieberman opposed the public option. But he didn't like that idea either. So, short of the 60 votes needed to keep it in the bill, Senate leaders dropped it.
Governors: As Medicaid covers more people, governors already trying to cope with recession-depleted state treasuries worry they'll be stuck with spiraling healthcare costs mandated in the bill but not matched with federal funding.
Howard Dean: The medical doctor who made universal healthcare a central part of his 2004 presidential campaign won't be getting his wish this Christmas. With a public option stripped from the legislation, he would rather scrap the entire bill than pass a weak substitute. "This is a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
No matter what stays or goes in the final bill, there's likely to be little holiday cheer for Senate staffers who may find themselves standing beneath the Capitol Rotunda instead of the mistletoe next week. That's because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to finish the healthcare overhaul before voters start thinking about the 2010 elections.
As they're saying on Capitol Hill, "Harry Christmas."