Monday, October 26, 2009

Harry Reid Settles on a Public Option with an Opt-Out Provision

But will that be enough to convince 60 Senators to Opt-In, and support the legislation?

Even Nancy Pelosi was having trouble getting all of the votes that she needed last week for a robust Public Option. The Democrats in the House were forced to cave, because of Senate opposition. So will this compromise be enough? Surely it should be enough in the House. But the Senate is another matter.

From the Washington Post Capitol Briefing Blog:

"The best way to move forward is a public option with the opt-out provision for states," Reid told reporters, adding that he "clearly" believes that such a bill would have "the support of my caucus."

It also has the support of the White House, which said that President Obama was "pleased that the Senate has decided to include a public option for health coverage, in this case with an allowance for states to opt out."

The proposal Reid discussed Monday is a merger of two bills previously passed out of Senate committees.

"Decisions had to be made as to what different issues would have to be eliminated from one of the two bills, and we did that," Reid said, adding that he would ask the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the effect of "a number of alternatives that is a different meld of those two bills."

Now we have to wait for the cost calculations....and determine whether Reid has the 60 votes he needs in the Senate. So far he has come up short. In fact, he has never had the votes.
Under pressure from liberal Democrats to include a public-option provision in any health reform bill, Reid has carefully canvassed the Senate in search of 60 votes. So far, he has not locked down commitments from every Democrat, Senate sources said.

The numbers aren't there yet. And I was always wondering why folks were counting Senators like Joe Lie-Berman. I wrote weeks and months ago that his vote couldn't be counted on....that he would probably vote with the Republicans. He stated as recently as last week that he would indeed vote against the Baucus Bill (which didn't even have a public option). So I doubt that he would support anything that actually includes a Public plan.

Harry Reid is only about 3 or 4 Senators short... that's probably the closest that they've ever been on any measurable Healthcare Reform legislation. Old fashioned political negotiations could probably close that gap.

Is this good legislation? I won't say that it's good....because it's not the best plan that could have been offered. However, it probably is the best plan that anyone could have hoped for under the circumstances. From a practical standpoint, this could work....if administered properly. There are a few problems... for example, the plan starts too late in my opinion. It would not take effect for several years. The late start is necessary for budgetary and logistical reasons, but it just seems as if they could have moved it up a few more years. Certain things would probably kick in sooner. The Obama Administration would have to make sure that they are effectively discouraging employers from eliminating healthcare coverage. The fines would have to be stiff enough to make employees believe that maintaining coverage would be a better deal for them in the long run. Then there will be all the attempts by businesses and insurance companies to game the new system.

This is still not the robust plan that I was hoping for. It was the compromise that I expected. But, if this is the outline of a final bill, it isn't a disaster either.

The opt-out option may actually be a stroke of brilliance. Why? Because what Governor or State Legislator is going to opt-out of this? Sure... several will try... and I can guarantee that the old Confederacy (home of the GOP base) will lead the way on that. But in most States, it would be political and economic suicide, especially with a majority of Americans saying they support some sort of public option. Even if you are a Republican Governor who is against the public option...because you are afraid that the Hispanics you hate might get free healthcare, or because it might put a strain on your already overburdened hospitals (because you closed all those public health centers and neglected fixing your healthcare/hospital capacity problems), do you want to put your State at such a fundamental disadvantage? Opting out would make it harder for States to compete in the long run. If workers, students, and families don't want to move to your State because of the out of touch healthcare policy... then that's a problem. It will kill revenue. And those who already live in such a State will slowly but surely leave for other States that have the public option.

Those who support the "Opt-out" measure (Confederate Governors) are hoping that new businesses will flock to their States to take advantage of the policy....that insurance companies will move their operations. They would love their States to become pro-business havens like the Northern Mariana Islands, where there are fewer regulations.They would love to create paradises for greed. But in the long run...this would turn out to be a losing strategy.

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