Monday, October 19, 2009

Public Option by Stealth?

News from the Senate, where Reid, Baucus, Dodd and Emanuel (representing Obama) are merging the various health care bills, the news remains bleak.

BaucusBill President Obama isn’t demanding that health care legislation include a government-run insurance option even though he believes it would best meet his reform goals, White House advisers said yesterday.

The White House and lawmakers are trying to blend five House and Senate committee versions of health care legislation into a bill that will pass both houses, where near unanimous GOP opposition was expected.

House Democrats are insisting that there be a public option in competition with the private insurance industry to drive down the cost of coverage. In the Senate, Republicans and some Democrats oppose the measure, meaning inclusion of the public option would foreclose winning the 60 votes needed to advance a bill.

Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama believes the public plan is still the “best possible choice,’’ but she said he’s not demanding it.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is deeply involved with Democrats in trying to merge the various committee proposals, also appeared to set aside the public option.

“It’s not the defining piece of health care. It’s whether we achieve both cost control, coverage, as well as the choice,’’ Emanuel said…

Inserted from <Boston Globe>

Emanuel is blowing smoke.  Without a public option, there will be neither cost containment nor choice.  However, one thing did come to mind that I had not previously considered.  If Obama were to demand a public option right now, the Republican reaction to whip up fear and disseminate disinformation would be so vehement that it would fill the news for several days, so he may be laying low.  He does have a history of that.  In the Illinois legislature he voted “present” on more than one progressive bill at the request of the bill’s sponsors in the hope that moderates would then vote for it.  He may plan to get a bill with no public option passed out of the Senate, have a public option put back in during the conference committee, and bring it back to the Senate for a final vote with the public option included.  Republicans would need 60 votes to remove it at that point.  I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, unless and until he proves me wrong.

One think is clear.  A bill with no public option would be catastrophic for Democrats, as the CBO makes clear.

CBO From the start, the health-reform debate has been about money – who will get the best break and who may have to pay more. That is why the issue of the public option, a less expensive government-run insurance plan, has been so central to both the policy and political debates.

Indeed, if the Democrats abandon the public option for the sake of passing a bill like the one that came out of the Senate Finance Committee, they may be courting electoral disaster once voters grasp that they will have to wait years for the law to be implemented and then that it could lead to higher costs for much the same unpopular private insurance plans.

The public option offers the only means for a reform to be quickly implemented and to demonstrate a beneficial effect for the people by 2010 and 2012. It has the potential for reducing costs, especially for small businesses and individuals who are now being soaked by private insurers or denied coverage.

After assessing the five pieces of legislation that have cleared different committees of Congress, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that the nation would get the most savings on health-care costs from a public option tied to Medicare rates. Such a version, which is included in two of the House bills, would save an estimated $110 billion over 10 years.

A more modest public option in another House bill, which de-links the rates from Medicare and would require negotiations with health-care providers, would save an estimated $25 billion, the CBO says. By contrast, the co-op idea in Sen. Max Baucus’s Finance Committee bill would cost $6 billion to set up and would garner few if any savings.

Since the co-op would offer minimal competition, the health-insurance industry doesn’t object to it but is dead set against the public option. The reason is obvious:  many of those projected savings would come out of the industry’s bottom line... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Alternet>

The struggle is not over, but to have any chance of success, we need to hound our Senators and Representatives.  You can be sure that Big Insurance and their Republican collaborators have phone banks doing just that.  We need to stand up one person at a time.  To contact your legislators Click Here.


Oso said...

great post.I try to keep up,but there's only so much my brain can hold.
The info on the various public options has helped to fill in some of the blank spots,for me.

TomCat said...

Thanks, Oso. I know the feeling. Every day I skim around 500 articles before settling on the few I cover. I'm barely scratching the surface.