Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

February 13, 2010

ARE DEMOCRATIC HEALTH TALKS STILL UNDERWAY?.... Those following the debate over health care reform closely may have noticed something over the last couple of weeks: it's been awfully quiet.

For a while, there were spurts of activity -- caucus meetings, leadership discussions, quiet negotiations, presidential pronouncements -- which at least offered us hints about the status of the initiative. But once the bipartisan summit was announced, it seemed like everyone was told they could take a breather, wait for the 25th, and watch for possible progress soon after.

But yesterday, there were signals that more may be going on behind the scenes than may be obvious. We talked earlier about the White House invitations to participants in the upcoming summit. Note this specific language in the invitation:

Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package. This legislation would put a stop to insurance company abuses, extend coverage to millions of Americans, get control of skyrocketing premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and reduce the deficit. [emphasis added]

It is the President's hope that the Republican congressional leadership will also put forward their own comprehensive bill to achieve those goals and make it available online as well.

This makes it sound as if there will be a Democratic proposal to offer in place by the 25th, which would be quite a breakthrough, since there is no completed Democratic package right now. Indeed, House Republican leaders seem to believe that Democratic talks are still going strong -- and they insisted that those negotiations end immediately before additional progress is made.

Apparently, the White House would like to have a completed Democratic proposal to present at the summit, and then have it compared to a completed Republican proposal. Participants would go through each plan, with Dems incorporating provisions from the GOP package as appropriate. Republicans, in contrast, want to throw out all of the work that's already been done, and presumably not craft their own plan at all.

Now, Democratic policymakers may not be able to craft a final proposal before the 25th, and they may go into the summit with some unanswered questions. Just because Dems intend to post the text of a reform package before the event doesn't mean they'll be able to work out their differences.

But the fact that it seems to be the new stated goal, and that Republicans are actually worried about it, points to the most encouraging news on health care reform I've seen in a while.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

Bookmark and Share

It says "a proposed", not "the proposed".

Not necessarily a proposal that Democrats are united behind.

Posted by: Colin on February 13, 2010 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

I dunno. If Democrats were doing anything, many of them would be blabbing, just to get themselves on the teevee. I suspect silence means the D's are still off somewhere, hiding from their own shadows.

Posted by: K in VA on February 13, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Steve, but, the health care reform ship has sunk in the Potomac. Lawrence O'Donnell said it best, yesterday, while sitting in for Ed, when he spoke of the dying days of the proposed plan in the early nineties. He said that they would schedule meetings to make it appear they were making progress, while, they knew it was over. So, "Everything old is new again" has become, unfortunately for our nation, a Golden Oldie heading for the top of the charts.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 13, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Obamacare and its death panels are dead. Our grandmothers are safe. Get over it liberals.

Posted by: Al on February 13, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

What prevented Democrats from reaching an agreement on a common plan before the legislative process started?
So suddenly a year later they will converge on a common proposal? That requires a suspension of disbelief.
Some of them simply don't care on anything beyond their immediate personal interest and they hold the rest hostages.

Posted by: Yoni on February 13, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Geez, Al, don't be too giddy for your Grand MaMa. She is still in the clutches, er, "safe hands" of those death panels of bean counters at Aetna, UnitedHealthCare, Blue Cross and the like. I'm sure she will be well taken care of by those Cost-Benefit worshippers. Perhaps, they will refer to her as some Ford VP did for victims of Pinto rear gas tank explosions, as "units". Your beloved Grandmama will continue to be a "unit".

Posted by: berttheclock on February 13, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Care to make any bets whether it is some to a lot of meaningless talk--- followed by no action?

Posted by: gdb on February 13, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Yoni said:
So suddenly a year later they will converge on a common proposal? That requires a suspension of disbelief.
Some of them simply don't care on anything beyond their immediate personal interest and they hold the rest hostages.

Maybe, just maybe the right-leaning Democrats like Baucus will recognize that it is in their own best interest to get something passed. And that sense of self-preservation could encourage them to be more cooperative.

Hopefully the ConservaDems will be able to feel the way the political winds are blowing, and realize that voters in their red-leaning states aren't going to vote for a pseudo-Republican when they can vote for a real one. Hopefully they'll begin to worry that the campaign donations from the insurance corporations (bribes) won't hold back the voter backlash, and that they could very well end up having to look for a real job.

Well, one can hope . . . .

Posted by: SteveT on February 13, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

This is what lawyers call an admission against interest: "The text of a proposed health insurance reform package." Note: "health insurance reform" not 'health reform.'

At the beginning of this debacle, liberals were complaining the Obama-inspired health reform legislation looked less like health reform than insurance reform. White House apologists were vigorously denying it. Now, the matter is settled.

Obama screws his base once again.

Posted by: John B. on February 13, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think there's any doubt that meaningful HCR is dead, but it was killed by the Senate and would continue to be dead even if the Democrats still had 58 seats + Ind + Lieberman.

Whatever comes next is going to be a combination of damage control and public relations. The White House wants something out there so it doesn't look like a complete failure, and clearly regardless of what gets passed, the current situation is diabolically awful, so bad that virtually the only thing that could be worse would be the Senate Bill.

I have my doubts though that anything is going to pass. The key problem continues to be the mandate. Too many people are obsessed with having one yet those same people don't care about ensuring there are effective safeguards to prevent people from being screwed over. Without it, it's possible (if unlikely) to get Snowe on board, together with the left side of the Democratic party. With it, it's only possible to get the left side of the Democratic Party if you also have a nationally available, non-profit, insurance carrier, preferably one that's public owned.

But on the other hand, the wonks have talked themselves into not being able to see reform without some kind of mandate, and therefore will never propose such a thing, even though they've absolutely ruled out a national non-profit carrier.

So whatever comes out of the White House right now is, well, going to be interesting and highly unlikely to actually have a hope in hell. Most of us can come up with steps forward that would actually attract majority support and would objectively improve the current situation, but we're not part of the DC mindset.

Posted by: squiggleslash on February 13, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Nothing else will do as much as health care reform to revive American business, hence jobs and thus the economy. Nothing. It must pass sooner than later or American workers will remain uncompetitive internationally.

This is the opportunity to move forward. The threat to use recess appointments, the preceding little jobs bill which will pass with fewer than 60 votes are intended to make the American public aware that the Democrats in the senate can and should pass legislation, despite Republican objections, with less than 60 votes.

Lay out all the options, show what works and what doesn't and get it done senators. It's not only your jobs that are on the line.

Posted by: markg8 on February 13, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK


didn't you get the memo? rahm put the whole thing on hold.

Posted by: pluege on February 13, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

If health care insurance reform can increase coverage, slow cost increases and reduce the deficit, what's not to like? It's certainly better than the status quo (sorry, couldn't think of any band puns).
My reading of this it that Mr. Emmanuels' way has been tried. And found wanting. Big time. Republicans demanding a halt to further negotiations only furthers that impression. Hopefully, something close to the House bill will result...

Posted by: Doug on February 13, 2010 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Will someone please frickin' explain why the House cannot pass the Senate bill -- and with Obama's signature put it into law -- along with a separate bill that amends it in every way the House majority wants -- and effectively challenge the Senate to back those amendments by majority vote in the reconciliation process? And why, since this way forward seems patently obvious, and those amendments are almost certainly likely to be politically popular with Democrats and independents, it is not being done or was not done a month ago?

Posted by: urban legend on February 13, 2010 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

While health is wealth most of our people no good health and it is the reality that they have no wealth to keep health well. To keep good health we also need wealth. Health is wealth? Not always that!

Posted by: The Health Dude on February 14, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

A public health insurance option and its impact on the private market was never fully evaluated, and this enabled industry and opponents to easily distort the debate. The CBO could evaluate and publish premiums for one or more basic policies available to all as individuals, e.g., a policy modeled on Medicare, based on $500 deductible, 80/20 copay, a fair multiplier and premiums based on age, and a risk pool comparable to that of Well Point. All Americans could then compare this to their current costs (publishing this before 02.25 would be helpful!). To take this a step further, have private insurance providers quote their rate for an identical policy.

This could change the debate. I believe an alternative to the private market will provide a better product at a better price, and published data will undermine those who support the status quo or a pre-emptive industry bailout a la the Senate bill - these will bankrupt the country. Legislation can be minimal, and results improved through the market when a public insurance policy is a better product available to all. Forget mandates, pre-existing conditions - let the health insurance industry continue their current practices. Politically, it is difficult to demagogue a better product at a better price, and this would force opponents to defend the current system. The need for mandates, health care reforms, and the most effective means of making insurance affordable could be evaluated after insurance is truly competitive, and is based on patient needs. On legislation, remove Anti-Trust and competitive restrictions, allow re-importation of drugs and negotiation of drug prices on Medicare Part D and public health policies - and dare Republicans to oppose those. Expand Medicaid via reconciliation. Provide transparency and competition, thereby approaching a more genuinely free market - then find and address market failures.

J. Roseman

Posted by: J. Roseman on February 14, 2010 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly