Passing Health Care Reform at All Costs

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Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 12:44 pm
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)(WDCpix)

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)(WDCpix)

Unveiling a modified health reform bill on Saturday, Senate Democratic leaders appear to have cobbled together the 60 votes they’ll need to pass the most expansive overhaul to the nation’s health care system in generations. But winning that support comes at a steep cost.

To satisfy Democratic moderates, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to drop the public option, the government-run insurance plan many experts argue is necessary to keep insurance costs down, and he had to add an abortion provision that reproductive rights groups say will leave millions of women without comprehensive health coverage.

[Congress1] The compromises are emblematic of the political pickle Democratic leaders have faced all year. Despite commanding the 60-seat majority needed to defeat Republican filibusters, party leaders have quickly discovered that uniting the disparate ideologies and regional interests represented by the diverse troop of Democratic senators is no simple task. The disagreements within their own caucus have led party leaders to dilute some of their top legislative priorities — like credit card reform — and drop others altogether, as was the case with mortgage bankruptcy reform. As The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach wrote Saturday, “Life at 60 has been awkward for the Democrats.”

Nowhere has that statement rung more true than in the debate over health care reform, where conservative-leaning Democrats have had much greater success watering down the bill than all Republicans combined. For example, to satisfy Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats, the bill scraps the public option, instead proposing the creation of national insurance plans to be contracted by the government to private companies. Lieberman, representing the insurance-industry hub of Connecticut, has said the public plan would be too costly for the government at a time when federal deficits are already at record heights. For many months he’s hinged his support for the underlying bill on the absence of a public option — in any form.

Liberals have long said that a public plan is vital for creating competition in the largely uncompetitive insurance market, lowering costs and keeping the private insurers honest. Allowing private insurers to continue unchecked, they argue, is to empower the very industry that’s largely to blame for the ills plaguing the nation’s dysfunctional health care system

“Any measure that expands private insurers’ monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform,” Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee, wrote last week in The Washington Post.

In a huge concession to another moderate holdout, Democratic leaders included a provision that would allow states to ban abortion coverage for women receiving federal subsidies on proposed new, government-organized private insurance marketplaces, dubbed exchanges. Included to win the support of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), that provision would also force women seeking abortion coverage to write two separate premium checks to their insurance company, ensuring that no federal funds pay for abortion services by separating the insurance payments. To entice Nelson, Democratic leaders also hiked federal Medicaid payments to Nebraska by $45 million over the next decade.

The abortion provision drew the immediate condemnation of women’s reproductive rights groups. NARAL Pro-Choice America issued a statement Saturday saying that the compromise is “outrageous,” and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America issued another calling the two-check system “unworkable.”

“There is no sound policy reason to require women to pay separately for their abortion coverage other than to try to shame them and draw attention to the abortion coverage,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. “Moreover, it is highly unlikely that insurance companies will be willing to follow such an administratively cumbersome system, leaving tens of millions of women without abortion coverage.”

Nelson, for his part, accepted the criticisms without regret.

“I know these limits on abortion are hard for some people to accept, and I respect those who disagree,” Nelson said in a statement after the compromise language was agreed to. ”But I would not have voted for this bill without them.”

The sticking points aside, Democratic leaders cheered the overall bill as an effective means to provide health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans while also controlling skyrocketing health-care costs, both public and private. The compromise bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will cut deficit spending by $132 billion over the next decade, and $1.3 trillion in the decade following.

“By creating strong competition, we’ll reduce skyrocketing health care costs that stop thousands of Nevadans and millions of Americans from getting the best possible health care,” Reid said in a statement. “When we pass this bill, we will cultivate a health care system that values quality of care over profits — ensuring that patients receive the care they need and deserve.”

Republicans couldn’t disagree more. Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), senior Republican on the Budget Committee, issued a statement Saturday blasting the new bill as “nothing more than a re-hash of expensive and unpopular ideas.”

“The lesson to be learned here is that to secure 60 votes in the Senate, you have to produce legislation that spends more, taxes more, and borrows more,” Gregg said. “A majority of Americans don’t want this kind of new expense, taxation, debt, or intrusion of government. We should step back and come up with a bipartisan plan that will be more effective and affordable.”

With Democratic senators united behind the legislation, however, the GOP opposition is largely inconsequential. Rather, it will likely be House Democrats who will present the next real hurdle to Reid’s bill. Indeed, House leaders have their own ideas about what health reform should look like, and in many areas they differ significantly from the provisions found in the Senate compromise, including the approach to the public option, restrictions on coverage for illegal immigrants, the children’s health insurance program, and even abortion. In fact, reports suggest that Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) — who sponsored stringent abortion restrictions in the House bill — was working behind the scenes with Senate Republicans to make the Nelson restrictions even stronger. Stupak has denied knowledge of contacts between his office and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). These issues set the stage for another showdown within the Democratic Party when the leaders of the two chambers meet to iron out the differences between the bills.

A full year into the fight over health reform, that part of the debate hasn’t even started.

Comments

51 Comments

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todd432
Comment posted December 20, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

I said it once and I'll say it again this bill is unacceptable and has became the Joe Lieberman bill. To FORCE individuals to buy insurance from those Money hungry heath insurance companies will cost the Dems big time in 2010. My only hope is that people are smart enough not to run back to the Republicans because those bums are not at all what the used to be and have certainly went way too far right and off the deep end.


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Comment posted December 20, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

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Hawaiianstyle
Comment posted December 21, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

The law of unintended consequences does NOT apply here.

The democrats started out to do good, and the health insurance companies did well.

A cave in to single payer, public option, opt out, medicare buy in and abortion rights lost all for a ?compromise?

If you compromise both sides are supposed to give something. Giving your vote to a bill that you have made into a special interest aid package is not compromise if you were the one that represents the special interest.

Lieberman, Stupak and Nelson are the Benedict Arnolds of the 21st century. They have helped their special interests at the cost of medical care to millions of needy Americans.


PaulC1958
Comment posted December 21, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

I'm a liberal Democrat, but I'm not a fool. If by voting for Democrats I get Republican policies, why oh why should I not consider Republicans? They can probably do Republican policies even better. I'm done with President Obama and current congressional Democrats. I'll come back to the party when it starts representing my interests and those of my family. The only ones they represent today are corporations/businesses, the wealthy elite of which they are largely members, the military industrial complex, the Catholic church, ethnic groups like La Raza and MALDEF, etc., and illegal aliens. Democrats certainly do not represent me or my family!


Name
Comment posted December 21, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

Meanwhile the stalled bill that guarantees 20 weeks of extended federal unemployment benefits to a nation that is drowning in unemployed workers continues to be pushed to the wayside. Is anyone listening up there? Do ya'll realize that this is taking benefits away from nearly 1.5 million people? Why are we working on health care when we haven't even fixed the problem we started the year off with? If my state wasn't providing me with additional benefits for food, my children would go hungry. What happens when I can't pay the light bill anymore? Does a senators power go off then? It should.


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Comment posted December 23, 2009 @ 4:20 am

I said it once and I'll say it again this bill is unacceptable and has became the Joe Lieberman bill. To FORCE individuals to buy insurance from those Money hungry heath insurance companies will cost the Dems big time in 2010. My only hope is that people are smart enough not to run back to the Republicans because those bums are not at all what the used to be and have certainly went way too far right and off the deep end


Hawaiianstyle
Comment posted December 23, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

Help. Somebody needs to define compromise to Congress.

Caving into legal blackmail to get something is not compromise.

Giving concessions that give away good needed legislation for agreement on watered down “help” to needy Americans is not compromise its expediency for an agreement to do something, anything before Christmas.

Any Senate “leader” that has the power to give away or grant special favors to a special interest advocate Senator and uses that power is not compromising!!! He is giving into business as usual in the Congress.

Until we ban corporations and other interest groups from giving Congressmen money we will not get our Democracy back.


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libertyvalence
Comment posted December 26, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

People are naturally conservative by nature. Careful, cautious even timid (Obama), that does not make anybody a political conservative. This is the type of bullshit that conservatives pass off as truth.
I think the president's political goals are not my concern.
I believe the battles over HCR, Economic reform, immigration reform and gay rights are part of a war where one group of people is pitted against the improvement of humanity. People who are against this improvement are able to circumscribe their human gift of thought because of capricious notions based on sentimental and often selfish garbage. That includes the ones who compromised on the latest HCR bill and voted yes. The ethic contained in the Golden Rule is universal to all beliefs, even non belief, yet rejected by conservatives who are bent on preserving a feudal ethos.
The HCR bill and upcoming energy, climate and immigration issues as well as civil rights for gays, assumes that a truce is possible in this war. What progressives need to do is make this war clear to themselves and others, or their goals will not be clear goals. Being aware of the repetition of history means nothing because ''I told you so'' does not produce change.
Saying that you do believe in the HCR bill, or any bill or don't believe in it, is beside the point.
If the US is about democracy and republican government, then these issues need to be central and not a source of peripheral comment or criticism. We progressives are avoiding the specific initiative in favor of arguing about who is right or wrong an any issue. That just copies the conservatives and some absurd sense of symmetry.


libertyvalence
Comment posted December 27, 2009 @ 12:06 am

People are naturally conservative by nature. Careful, cautious even timid (Obama), that does not make anybody a political conservative. This is the type of bullshit that conservatives pass off as truth.
I think the president's political goals are not my concern.
I believe the battles over HCR, Economic reform, immigration reform and gay rights are part of a war where one group of people is pitted against the improvement of humanity. People who are against this improvement are able to circumscribe their human gift of thought because of capricious notions based on sentimental and often selfish garbage. That includes the ones who compromised on the latest HCR bill and voted yes. The ethic contained in the Golden Rule is universal to all beliefs, even non belief, yet rejected by conservatives who are bent on preserving a feudal ethos.
The HCR bill and upcoming energy, climate and immigration issues as well as civil rights for gays, assumes that a truce is possible in this war. What progressives need to do is make this war clear to themselves and others, or their goals will not be clear goals. Being aware of the repetition of history means nothing because ''I told you so'' does not produce change.
Saying that you do believe in the HCR bill, or any bill or don't believe in it, is beside the point.
If the US is about democracy and republican government, then these issues need to be central and not a source of peripheral comment or criticism. We progressives are avoiding the specific initiative in favor of arguing about who is right or wrong an any issue. That just copies the conservatives and some absurd sense of symmetry.


Sylentwolf
Comment posted March 29, 2010 @ 2:13 am

THE LYING 'LIBERAL' MEDIA:

Ed Schultz, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow: These Socialist-supporting, Communist-committed, Marxist-Loving, Nontransparent-Cheating, False-Hope Preaching, Progressive-idiots want the U.S. Constitution Abolished, and/or at least heading in that direction. When Socialist-Dictators from 3rd-World countries praise your economic achievements, you better “MEASURE TWICE, and CUT ONCE” your understanding of your countries future.

MSNBC is BAD for Business in the U.S.A.!

This is not CANADA! This is not a “HATE” speech from a ‘Right-Wing Nut,’ or even a ‘Right-Winger,’ this is an opinion from an AMERICAN who doesn’t need to think but UNDERSTAND that there is hate everywhere, against anyone, at anytime, about anything, from everywhere (there are BUSH haters on the left & OBAMA haters on the right).

Anyone who agrees with the reigning Administration must want to know WHEN to piss, WHO to kiss, WHEN to play, WHERE to work, and WHERE to lay (live). Anyone who agrees with the reigning Administration must have bought, what they couldn’t afford; have trespassed, where they didn’t live; have barrowed, what they couldn’t pay back; listened, to what they didn’t understand, and are now preaching, what they know nothing of.

MSNBC, CNN, and the Obama Administration worry more about the well-being and opinions of Domestic/Islomic Terrorist then they do about the well-being and majority, that represent the AMERICAN PEOPLE. They must be more worried about the well-being of 20% of the country, then they are about the well-being of the majority, 80% of the country.

You can blame (President) Clinton for pushing away our ECONOMY’S past , (President) Bush for ignoring our ECONOMY’s Present, and (President) Obama for throwing away our ECONOMY’s Future.

If you can’t read or understand the Constitution, then get out of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA, quickly!

So we just passed a Health Care Law in order to know what is in it; written by a committee whose chairman says he didn’t understand it; passed by a congress that didn’t read it and exempts themselves from it; Signed by a hypocritical-president who is a smoker; from funding administered by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes; all to be overseen by a sergeon general who by military standards is obese; all to be financed by a country that is broke.

(WHAT IDIOTS)

OUR INDEPENDENCE IS THE “BIG F@#?EN DEAL!” (Thank You Mr. Biden)


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If you compromise both sides are supposed to give something. Giving your vote to a bill that you have made into a special interest aid package is not compromise if you were the one that represents the special interest.


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