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Public Option Out?

Posted Dec 09 2009 12:00am

The “deal” is made. Or so it seems.  In the kind of back door bargaining that killed health reform in 1992-94 under President Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid believes he has come up with a compromise that will allow him to to 60 votes on passage of health reform bill in the Senate.  Since both those on the far left and far right are unhappy, no doubt some will argue that this means this is a good compromise, leaving many unhappy.  Still, there remain major concerns about the vast extent of the bill in question.  One reason for concern is that that House bill, which is far to the left of the Senate bill, will have to be melded together with whatever finally emerges from the Senate in committee.  The concern is that with the Senate bill already left of center, the ability to achieve a mainstream bill at the end of the process will be negated.  There are reforms that we are all advocating. However, we must be cautious in considering how to expand coverage.  The idea of opening Medicare to those over 55 years of age is not new.  It may be a worthy consideration.  However, the financing end of the deal needs to be worked out in a way that is not harmful to the overall economy nor punitive to groups which are been targeted by some in the Congress.  We will continue to watch and offer ideas, but hope that insurance oversight would be the real result of any meaningful real health reform.  These bills still do not do that.  Instead, they attempt to compete or corner insurers instead of offering meaningful regulatory reform of the health insurance market . . . obi jo

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said Tuesday night that he and a group of 10 Democratic senators had reached “a broad agreement” to resolve a dispute over a proposed government-run health insurance plan, which has posed the biggest obstacle to passage of sweeping health care legislation. Mr. Reid refused to provide details. Other senators said the tentative agreement would sideline but not kill the “public option” championed by President Obama and liberal Democrats in Congress.  Under the agreement, people ages 55 to 64 could “buy in” to Medicare. And a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress.  The odds now seem to be that any legislation emerging from the Senate will omit the kind of straightforward, immediately available public option originally envisioned by advocates, including President Obama. But if the deal announced by Mr. Reid holds, it is likely that a bill will be sent to the White House that includes a broader and more direct role for government in the health insurance market.  The deal did not entirely resolve the biggest dispute: whether the legislation should include a “public option,” a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers. Many Democrats had not even seen the agreement on Tuesday night, much less signed on to it. But by offering something to liberal Democrats and centrists, the tentative deal announced by Mr. Reid created a framework for an agreement with a chance of winning the 60 votes necessary to pass the health care bill in the Senate.  President Obama praised Senate Democrats on Wednesday for producing “a creative new framework” to provide coverage to uninsured Americans without relying on a government insurance option.  “I support this effort, especially since it’s aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering cost,” Obama said at a health-care event near the White House, attended by several Senate Democrats. “So I want to thank all of you for sticking with it, for all those late nights, all the long weekends that you guys have put in. With so much at stake, this is well worth all of our efforts.”

Republicans criticized the Democratic negotiations. “What’s becoming abundantly clear is that the majority will make any deal, agree to any terms, sign any dotted line that brings them closer to final passage of this terrible bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.).  Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) said expanding Medicare “is putting more people in a boat that’s already sinking.”  The American Medical Association said it opposes expanding Medicare because doctors face steep pay cuts under the program and many Medicare patients are struggling to find a doctor. Hospitals also said expanding Medicare and Medicaid is a bad idea.

Reid Says Deal Resolves the Impasse on the Public Option – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/us/09health.html?th&emc=th

Reid Says Deal ‘Should Satisfy Everybody’ – http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/reid-says-deal-should-satisfy-everybody/?ref=us

How to Read the Reid Plan — Whatever It Is – http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/how-to-read-the-reid-plan-whatever-it-is/

Public Option Keeps Toehold in Senate Deal on Health Bill – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/10/health/policy/10health.html

Democrats Said to Agree to Drop Full Public Option – http://news.yahoo.com/s/bloomberg/20091209/pl_bloomberg/ah1t44prncc

Senators Strike Health Deal – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126030062798482341.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond

Senate Democrats reach healthcare deal on ‘public option’ – http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-health-senate9-2009dec09,0,7688557.story

Senate deal on public option draws praise from Obama – http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/12/senate-deal-on-public-option-d.html?nav=rss_email/components

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