Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Senate Dems supposedly reach deal on health-care reform

It is being widely reported tonight that Senate Democrats have reached a deal, a compromise, on health-care reform, and it could mean the end of the public option.

It's not clear what's in the proposal, which will go to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for scoring later today (Wednesday). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling it a "broad agreement."

The AP is reporting that the public option has been dropped. Here's Politico:

Senate negotiators moved decisively away from including a government-run health insurance plan that would start on Day One in any final compromise, a major disappointment for the Democratic base but one that is likely to prove necessary to win over fiscally moderate senators.

Instead, Democrats are considering including a "trigger" that would allow a public plan to kick in – but only in the event that private insurers didn’t step up and offer policies for the new national health insurance plan, which seemed unlikely.

To win over liberals disappointed at losing the public option, Democrats would allow older Americans starting at age 55 to buy into Medicare, the popular program for the aged. The Medicare expansion would be a significant victory for Democrats, who spent years pushing for it. The proposal would in effect create a public health insurance option for older Americans, since Medicare is government-funded and government-run.

Needless to say, liberals and progressives who think, rightly, that even a robust public option is enough of a compromise (as I do) won't be amused. Nor will many of those Democrats in the House who successfully passed a reform package with a public option. (Of course, there would still remain the arduous task of the House and Senate sitting down to hammer out a bill satisfactory to each side.)

But the public option may not be dead... yet. As TPM's Brian Beutler is reporting, Reid is leaving open the possibility that the compromise package might just include it: "All the things you've read in the newspapers," said Reid, "'the public option is gone,' -- it's not true."

I suspect that it is gone, or will soon be, and that, as Beutler notes, those behind the deal will try to make the case there is still a public option when in fact there isn't. I suppose the question then will be, is something, the something in the compromise package, better than nothing? Or could it at the very least be the starting point for negotiations with the House, which could lead, if not to the public option being put back it, to concessions that make the absence of a public option less unpalatable to supporters?

We shall see.

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  • I suspect that it is gone, or will soon be,

    Are you implying that a politician might be saying something that isn't true? Gosh.

    The proposed Medicare eligibility expansion might be worth something. It could play the same role as the public option would have done: by competing with private insurance for at least some customers, it will put downward pressure on prices, and if it helps people, it will create political pressure to make it more widely available, eventually to everyone.

    I've always seen this bill as a first step, something that would start us toward real reform and shift the range of what's politically possible so that more can be done later.

    And, of course, the public option is still in the House version. Unfortunately, so are the abortion restrictions. We need to be watching these guys like hawks, and to be ready to put pressure on them.

    By Anonymous Infidel753, at 8:42 AM  

  • I agree Infidel. I've been saying all along that even a compromise bill that isn't even close to what we want could still be the thin end of the wedge leading to further and more substantive reform down the road. Once Americans see that reform isn't socialism, they'll come to embrace it just as they've embraced Medicare and Social Security.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 9:28 AM  

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