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Health Reform Updates: Some Encouraging Signs

Morgen on June 17, 2009 at 9:25 am

The debate over the healthcare reform legislation is really starting to heat up in Congress – and there are some encouraging signs that Democrats may have overreached in their attempt to include the “public plan option” as a central component of the legislation. Here’s a quick run-down.

  • Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey reports that the latest cost estimates for ObamaCare (ranging from $1.6 to $4 trillion!) have derailed a key Senate Committee from beginning the mark-up process of the bill. Good story on this at the WSJ as well.
  • The Hill reports today that GOP and Democrat “centrists” have been meeting in secret over the past several weeks to try to hash out a more moderate solution for health reform. In better times for Republicans this probably would have been viewed by party faithful as a sell-out. However, I take a more positive view as this development seems to greatly increase the likelihood that the public plan will be pushed out of the legislation.
  • There seems to be some momentum building amongst Senate moderates for a “co-op” solution proposed by Senator Conrad (D-ND) as a more politically viable alternative to the public plan option being pushed by the President. While I am a little leery of government involvement in setting these co-ops up, and even more apprehensive about how they would be regulated (price controls, anyone?), this would be a far more preferable option than a plan run directly by the Feds.

OK. Now I actually saved the best news for last. Apparently using the budget reconciliation process is NOT a viable option for Senate Democrats to pass health reform legislation with only 51 votes (i.e. bypassing a Republican filibuster). This is major news, which comes courtesy of Senator Conrad, buried in an interview he did last week with Ezra Klein of the Washington Post:

[Klein] And why do you think that reconciliation won’t work for health reform?

Reconciliation was never designed to write substantive legislation. It was designed solely for deficit reduction. The whole idea was you would change numbers, not policy. You would change numbers on the revenue side of the equation and the spending side of the equation.

And so, the way it works, under current rules, if you’re in reconciliation, you have to be deficit neutral over five years. Under the budget resolution, health care can be deficit neutral under 10 years. That’s a big difference.

Two, under reconciliation, you’re subjected to the Byrd rule. The Byrd rule says that anything that doesn’t cost money or save money, or that only costs money or saves money in a way that’s incidental to the policy, is subject to strike. The result, for instance, is that all the insurance market provisions are subject to strike. All the wellness and prevention provisions are subject to strike. The Senate parliamentarian said to us that if you try to write substantive health reform in reconciliation, you’ll end up with Swiss cheese.

There you have it. I should point out that Senator Conrad is a fiscally conservative Democrat, and I wouldn’t put it past other more liberal members of the Senate to try to find a way to bypass the rules that Conrad is referring to. But this would only stir up more conservative opposition to this – in Congress and the public at large. So stay tuned. I think conservatives might actually end up with something to celebrate in the coming weeks – the defeat of the public plan!

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Category: Health & Education, Politics |

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