Health Care

As first reported by Chris Cilizza in the Washington Post, pollster Joel Benenson is circulating a memo arguing that health care reform has become more popular. Writes Benenson: When comparing the Pollster.com average from the three months prior to the President’s State of the Union speech to the five weeks since then, the data shows a 13-point shift in “favoring vs. opposing health care.” (The averages for both of these time periods filters out Rasmussen polling, which Pollster.com has described as having a strong “house effect” that leans Republican). ...

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Two things have become clear in the last few days. One: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants think they can pass health care reform and are ready to try. Two: They probably can't get it done by Wednesday, March 17, the day before President Obama was to leave on an extended foreign trip. So everybody wanted to know, would Obama delay or postpone his trip, in order to see the vote through?

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If you were following the news on Thursday, you probably heard about one if not both of these developments: 1) The Senate Parliamentarian issued a ruling, effectively forcing the House to pass the Senate health care bill before the Senate could consider amendments to it. This is, of course, not what the House wants to do. 2) House leadership signaled they were breaking off negotiations with Bart Stupak over abortion.

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Whether it’s Intrade, the polls, or the increasingly panicked predictions of doom from Republicans, the signs all suggest that the prospects for passing health care reform have been improving. And that's not just luck. Although President Obama and his allies have benefited from exogenous events, particularly the Blue Cross rate hikes, it seems clear they’ve made smart strategic moves, too. In particular, they’ve managed to simplify the debate and speed it up. So it’s a bit unnerving to read, and to hear, that House Democrats want to slow things down and make them more complicated.

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Tangled up in Blue

When Alma Dickson slipped on an icy sidewalk in Dallas, Texas, she knew she was hurt. But she wasn’t sure that she could pay for the medical care she needed. The year was 1929 and Dickson, a schoolteacher, didn’t make enough money to pay for x-rays and treatment on her own. But Dickson had recently signed up for something new: A plan under which she paid a monthly premium in exchange for a promise of care at a local Dallas hospital.

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You’ve probably never heard of Section 1312, section D, of the Senate health care reform bill, since it would affect just a few thousand people at most. But symbolically it’s among the bill’s most important provisions. And it's worth mentioning in the days before (hopefully) final congressional voting begins. The provision would require that members of Congress and their staff get insurance through the new insurance exchanges, once they are up and running.

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Pointing out the hypocrisy of Republican positions on procedural fairness is getting tiresome, I know. But I can't let this one pass. From Jay Newton-Small at Time: In the Senate, Dems are eyeing Tom Coburn and his promised “hundreds” of amendments warily. So warily that they're considering an obscure procedural tactic some Republicans are labeling the "nuclear option." Under reconciliation rules, debate is limited to 20 hours and only 51 votes are needed for final passage as the budget is immune to filibusters.

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The insurance industry is striking back. Attacked by the Democrats, harangued by activists, and reviled by the public, insurers have launched a major public relations campaign designed to make one simple point: It’s not their fault that American health care is so dysfunctional. The proof, according to the industry, is in the numbers: Their profits account for less than 1 percent of what America spends on health care in a given year. And you know what?

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Via Joe Klein, here's Rush Limbaugh confronting the increasingly likely enactment of health care reform: I'll just tell you this, if this passes and it's five years from now and all that stuff gets implemented--I am leaving the country. I'll go to Costa Rica. As Karen Tumulty notes, Costa Rica has actual government-run medical care. Maybe the Hawaii experience awakened Limbaugh's inner socialist?

  President Obama yesterday gave a campaign-style speech on health care reform. And it's the best talk I've seen him give yet. (Like Paul Krugman says, where was this guy last year?) Here's the ending, although you might appreciate it more by watching the video. It starts at the 38:10 mark: It is hard. That’s because health care is complicated. Health care is a hard issue. It’s easily misrepresented. It’s easily misunderstood. So it’s hard for some members of Congress to make this vote. There’s no doubt about that. But you know what else is hard?

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