Jonathan Chait

The Mirage Of Bipartisan Health Care Reform

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Mark Penn has a column in the Huffington Post urging -- well, you know the kinds of things Mark Penn urges. Be nice to big business. Focus on tiny, incremental steps. It's another reminder how lucky we are that his candidate lost the primary and this man isn't advising the president. I found this bit of advice especially amusing:

Look for ways to be genuinely bi-partisan instead of seeking the 60th vote through deals and compromise. Genuine bi-partisanship would have given the Republicans malpractice reform in exchange for a public option -- if you don't invest the opposition in the outcome, then they have no reason to support it.

First, did Penn sleep through the six months Democrats spent begging the Republicans to negotiate on health care reform, only to see them slowly back away as they were whipped into line by the party leadership. Second, Penn thinks the GOP would trade a public plan for malpractice reform? I'm trying to think of what it would take for them to accept a public plan. The total abolition of all taxes on income over $200,000? Even that probably wouldn't be enough.

As it happens, the GOP deal on the table is malpractice reform for... malpractice reform. Greg Sargent:

Before Cantor and I talked, he recounted to reporters that a few months ago, he’d laid out a “Republican plan” on health care plan to Dem counterpart Steny Hoyer. “Maybe he should have paid a bit more attention to that meeting,” Cantor told reporters, adding that “these elections have sent a message” to Dems to go back to the drawing board with Republicans.

I caught up with Cantor and asked specifically what Dems could propose beyond the GOP plan that GOPers would support. “This plan was premised on the notion that these are the kinds of things that we can do and produce together in a bipartisan fashion,” Cantor told me.

He noted the goals of getting rid of discrimination against those with preexisting conditions, producing more competition, and getting rid of “frivolous lawsuits,” adding: “We can do those things together.”

Yes, Cantor does say he wants to ban discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, but for reasons I've explained over and over again, you can't do that without an individual mandate, and you can't do that without subsidies for those who can't afford the mandate. So the preexisting condition stuff is just a way of posturing for a popular goal without admitting you oppose the necessary steps to accomplish it.

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