My colleague Jonathan Chait has a terrific summary of the philosophical divide separating Democrats and Republicans on health care: When you consider the differences between Democrats and Republicans on health care, you probably think in terms of scale. Democrats want to enact a big reform, while Republicans favor incremental progress.
Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and a Special Correspondent for The Treatment. There's been more positive attention of-late to the idea of high-risk pools. Some concrete numbers underscore why the idea doesn't deserve it. Most recently, Ross Douthat responded to a nice Treatment piece in which Jonathan Cohn explained why high-risk pools are an infeasible and inhumane response to the lack of health insurance coverage.
News on health care reform will increasingly be about individual members, as President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi try to accumulate the 216--er, now 217--votes House Democrats need to pass the Senate bill. The widely held assumption among insiders is that the Democrats can count upon about 200 "yes" votes right now, or maybe a few more. There are, meanwhile, somewhere between 30 and 40 House Democratic votes up for grabs. Thursday brought several developments.
Ezra Klein has a big exclusive: He's gotten hold of a consulting firm's report projecting that Wellpoint insurance would be the big winner if health care reform fails to pass. It's not hard to see why, as Ezra explains: Wellpoint's business model is uncommonly concentrated in the individual and small-group markets. Those are the exact markets that health-care reform will drastically change. Those are the markets where people get rejected for preexisting conditions, where insurers spend 30 cents of every premium dollar on administration and where rate hikes are volatile and constant.
Marc Ambinder has a nice analysis of how health care reform came back to life after the Scott Brown election in January. He calls it a "perfect storm": President Obama and the Democratic leaders in Congress made some smart choices, but they also benefited from good fortune, in the form of outside events that helped alter the political landscape. Chief among these was the decision by Anthem Blue Cross in California to announce its huge premium increases. Ambinder's summary is a good way to catch up on the debate if you've been tuned out for the last few weeks.
The campaign to sway votes in the House is underway. A conservative group, the League of American Voters, has announced it will be running advertisements in the districts of 13 vulnerable Democrats who voted for health care reform in November. The goal is to pressure them into voting "no" on the Senate bill when it comes up, presumably later this month. Here's the script of the ad, according to Politico: Our Congressman [name] voted for Obama and Pelosi's healthcare takeover. Billions in Medicare cuts. Healthcare rationing. Big taxes on good insurance plans.
President Obama began his remarks in the East Room on Wednesday with a reminiscence. Almost exactly one year before, he had stood in the very same spot, formally launching his initiative to reform America’s health care system. I happened to be there that day and I remember it well. Representatives of every interest group were there, as were congressional leaders of both parties.
The speech was straightforward and simple: We've been working at this all year, we have a good plan, now it's time to bring health care reform to an up-or-down vote. President Obama didn't use the word "reconciliation," but he did say it should be up to congressional majorities, rather than super-majorities, to make the call on final amendments to health care reform. He reminded everybody of his efforts to include Republicans, and pointed to the Republican ideas he ended up including.
Another major step forward: Senator Tom Harkin tells Politico that the Senate will take up amendments to its health care bill via the reconciliation process: The House, he said, will first pass the Senate bill after Senate leaders demonstrate to House leaders that they have the votes to pass reconciliation in the Senate. Harkin made the comments after a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office including Harkin and Sens. Baucus, Dodd, Durbin, Schumer and Murray. This is consistent with what House sources said yesterday.
President Obama got a lot of attention for the letter he sent Congress on Tuesday. But a leader of the House Democrats made some news, too. The leader was Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, who was speaking at his weekly press conference. As Politico has reported, discussion turned to a key procedural dispute between the two chambers: Would the House vote on the Senate bill right away, or would it wait until the Senate had approved amendments to the bill? The House has been saying it wants the Senate to go first and, during the press conference, Hoyer reiterated that stance.