Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Up or down: Obama finally takes a stand on health-care reform

As Creature noted yesterday, the White House is demanding an up-or-down vote on health-care reform. Its $950 billion plan is an attempt to bring the Senate and House together, and while it's deeply flawed (no public option, abortion compromise, start date of 2014), just like what the Senate passed, it's long overdue, contains improvements on the Senate bill (enhanced affordability, higher excise tax thresholds), while not going as far as the House bill, and could very well indicate that a deal is almost done and that reform is right around the corner.

For a detailed comparative examination of the three bills, see Igor Volsky at Think Progress, who provides a useful chart.

For more on Obama's bill, see Ezra Klein at The Washington Post:

The biggest political difference is that the White House proposal has gotten rid of some of the distractions that were hurting the Senate bill (namely, the Nelson and union deals), and added this rate regulation authority, which is essentially a distraction that's meant to help the bill.

But the real story of the bill is as it's always been: This is an effort to build a working health-care system in this country, and though people talk about the bill's complexity, it's really based on four simple elements: hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies so people can afford insurance; regulations so that insurers can't deny people insurance and create a situation where only the healthy have coverage; a mandate so that people have to purchase insurance and can't create a situation where no one purchases coverage until they're sick; and exchanges so that there's a working market where people can buy their insurance and be confident in the product's quality.

To be clear, Obama is not introducing an entirely new health care plan or even a mostly new health care plan. In fact, strictly speaking, he's not introducing a health care plan at all. He is, instead, proposing a set of changes to the bill that the Senate passed in December. If both chambers pass these changes -- and if the House passes the Senate bill -- health care reform will become law.

And, at long last, the president is putting his foot down and taking a stand.

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