Debbie Stabenow

Stories of real-life Obamacare “rate shock” have revived an old debate. Previously, health insurers could charge women higher premiums than they charged men. Insurers could also exclude maternity benefits. Obamacare prohibits those practices and conservatives are angry. Why should men have to pay higher insurance prices for services they will never use directly?

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Dust Storm

The GOP’s favorite punching bag right now is a government regulation that doesn’t exist. “Our goals include ... overturning the EPA’s proposed regulations that inhibit jobs in areas [such as] farm dust,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote in an August Washington Post op-ed. There was no such proposed rule. “We’ll stop excessive federal regulations that inhibit jobs in areas [such as] farm dust,” House Speaker John Boehner similarly pledged in a September 15 speech to the Economic Club of D.C. Still, there was no such proposal.

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Dollars for Dollars

Via Martin Vaughan and Laura Meckler at the Wall Street Journal, House and Senate negotiators may decide to expand the Medicare payroll tax, so that it includes investment income. Why is this important? Because it helps answer the question of how we'll pay for health reform, which--at the moment--is the number one sticking point between the House and Senate. Remember, the House would pay for expanded health coverage in part through higher income taxes.

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Democrats managed to avoid a big blow-up with Pharma this week when the Senate struck down Byron Dorgan’s drug reimportation amendment on Tuesday. But by promising to close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole in the final bill, the Democratic leadership has effectively deferred, not avoided, a possible showdown with the industry.

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We now have video of today's exchange between Senators Jon Kyl and Debbie Stabenow over requiring that insurance policies cover specific benefits--in this case, maternity benefits. It's worth considering Kyl's quote in full: I don't need maternity care and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something i don't need and make the insurance more expensive. Kyl's statement is absolutely true. He doesn't need maternity care and never will.

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Via Wonkroom comes this back-and-forth at the Senate Finance hearings, between Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican, and Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat. The subject is requirements that all insurance policies cover certain benefits.  KYL: "I don't need maternity care." STABENOW: "I think your mom probably did." I'm hard-pressed to think of a single exchange that better captures the sensibilities of our two political parties--or the principle of shared risk upon which universal coverage is based.

Of all the major items on Barack Obama's ambitious agenda, health reform has the best chance of passage during the current congress. While many battle-scarred veterans are skeptical, more stars are in alignment than in the past. Previously secure workers have lost, or are afraid of losing, their employer-provided health insurance. Employers are losing confidence that they can continue to provide insurance on terms their workers and businesses can afford.

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Earlier today, I walked down to the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference here in Washington, D.C., organized by the Sierra Club, the United Steelworkers, and a bunch of other labor and green groups focusing on—what else?—job creation in the clean-energy economy. I'd say the crowd was roughly half labor members and half environmentalists, and yes, the visual stereotypes you'd expect were occasionally on display (hulking steelworkers in overalls striding through crowds of skinny, thick-bearded eco-activists).

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Bringing It

THE FIRST VOLLEY of the 2004 general election came last Saturday, March 6, four days after John Kerry became the de facto Democratic nominee by driving John Edwards from the race. For three years, the Democrats had responded to President Bush's regular Saturday radio address with a rotating cast of mid-wattage pols. At the height of Bush's popularity, nothing better emphasized the stature gap between the wartime president and his hapless opposition than listening to, say, Debbie Stabenow carp about prescription drugs after a Bush address celebrating the overthrow of the Taliban.

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Drug Use

The prescription-drug debate has returned to Capitol Hill, and, depressingly, things have picked up pretty much where they left off before the last election. Last week, after House Republicans advanced an unrealistically thin $350 billion plan to subsidize drug costs for the elderly, Democrats pounced. House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt doubted that "anyone can take Republican claims seriously" and flayed the GOP's "sham bill." In the party's weekly radio address, Michigan Democrat John Dingell mocked the Republicans' "phantom benefit" and compared GOP leaders to shady car dealers.

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