Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Closer To The Endgame-- Yesterday's Healthcare Action


The nice news about the anti-choice debate yesterday that crazed Republicans and ConservaDems used to try to derail healthcare reform was that it failed and that the Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe crossed the aisle to vote to protect women's right to choice. On the other hand, seven anti-choice Democrats voted with the Republicans, two of whom-- Kaufman (D-DE) and Casey (D-PA)-- are otherwise pretty progressive. The ConservaDems who voted against choice were Evan Bayh (IN), Ken Conrad (ND), Byron Dorgan (ND), Ben Nelson (NE), and Mark Pryor (AR). The final vote was 54-45, tabling the bill and, in effect, killing it.

Then McCain's disingenuous motion to recommit (kill) the entire bill, which failed 42-57 crossover votes from ex-Insurance exec Ben Nelson and Jim Webb, who once again proved that Creigh Deeds isn't the only Virginia Democrat moronic enough to thumb his nose at the base and expect to live. Indeed, in the immortal words of Arkansas anti-choice Senator Mark Pryor, "you don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate. Anyone who's watched C-Span-2 knows that. Now watch this in preparation for how the day wrapped up:

What happened next is anybody's guess at this point, although AP's report says the Democrats are giving up on the widely popular public option concept. No one is talking about what went on in the council of 5 progressives and 5 reactionaries, although Harry Reid released a statement that claimed the public option isn't dead; no other sources are backing that up. Reid:
It is a consensus that includes a public option and will help ensure the American people win in two ways: one, insurance companies will face more competition, and two, the American people will have more choices.

I know not all 10 Senators in the room agree on every single detail of this, nor will all 60 members of my caucus. But I know we all appreciate the hard work that these progressives and moderates have
done to move this historic debate forward.

But last night Russ Feingold, one of the progressive negotiators, didn't sound like he would be partying as hearty as Insurance company executives and lobbyists:
While I appreciate the willingness of all parties to engage in good-faith discussions, I do not support proposals that would replace the public option in the bill with a purely private approach.  We need to have some competition for the insurance industry to keep rates down and save taxpayer dollars. I will base my vote on the bill on the entirety of what is in the bill, and whether I think the bill is good for Wisconsin.

What I've been able to piece together is that there's a trade off-- what was left of the worthless, tattered joke of a "robust" public option for an unsubsidized, expensive expansion of Medicare (the new age, starting in 2011 will be 55 instead of 65) and some kind of bogus faux-public option that will someday be triggered by Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson buttfucking each other on Glenn Beck's show. Actually TPM says the trigger isn't as bad as the one I foresee.
As has been widely reported, one of the trade-offs will be to extend a version of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan to consumers in the exchanges. Insurance companies will have the option of creating nationally-based non-profit insurance plans that would offered on the exchanges in every state. However if insurance companies don't step up to the plate to offer such plans, that will trigger a national public option.

We'll see how many House members have the will to vote no and break with Obama who still is looked at by some people in the DC branch of the Democratic Party as better-- even if just a teensy weensy bit better-- than George W. Bush. (No, really.)

Wanna be talked off the ledge? Chris Bowers makes some good points about why what we think the compromise will look like isn't nearly as bad as some of us think it's turning out.
While it looks like we didn't get a new public option program, we have received at least:

• 4 million more people covered by Medicaid, which is a public option, than the July version of the House bill

• 1-2 million covered by a Medicare buy-in, which is also a public option, and which was entirely absent in the July version of the House bill

• An increase, from 85% in the July House bill to 90% now, in the percentage of money companies receive on health insurance premiums that must be spent on health care.

These are all concessions directly made to progressives in return for dropping a Medicare +5% public option that would have covered 10 million people.  Not bad.

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