Health Care

Counting to 216

Daniel Nichanian has an excellent post up at Campaign Diaries breaking down all of the House Democratic votes for health care reform now in play. It takes account of the very latest news, including the word that Republican Nathan Deal is stepping down. That reduces the majority threshold to 216. It doesn't attempt to predict a final outcome, but I suspect that both optimists and pessimists will find grist for their views.

An article that ran in Politico on Friday provided a Rorschach test for those of us following the health care reform debate. The story was about reform’s prospects following President Obama’s bipartisan meeting. And it dwelt, at length, with the situation in the House. In order to enact reform, as you probably know, the House will have to pass the Senate bill as written, as well as pass amendments that the Senate can consider through the budget reconciliation process.

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John McCain has a reputation as a legislator of uncommon civility and integrity--largely because, for most of his political career, he deserved it. But the transformation of McCain into just another hackish politician over the last few years has been almost painful to watch. Today's episode of "Meet the Press" was a case in point. McCain was the first guest and spent the majority of his time fielding questions about health care reform.

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It's Time to Act

February 26, 2010 President Barack Obama Senator Harry Reid Majority Leader Senator Max Baucus, Chairman, Committee on Finance Senator Tom Harkin Chairman, Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House of Representatives Congressman Charles Rangel Committee on Ways & Means Congressman Henry A. Waxman Committee on Energy and Commerce Congressman George Miller Committee on Education and Labor Dear Mr. President, Congressmen and Congresswomen Our health care system is in crisis.

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Sarah Palin, M.I.A.

Since I am back from having a tooth pulled, a second column on dentistry seems in order. My last column noted a terrific story by NPR reporter Sarah Varney about how hundreds of thousands of poor and disabled Californians have lost dental coverage through California Medicaid. Tens of thousands of these men and women have intellectual disabilities. Dentistry is a sore spot in our family. Finding a dentist willing and able to treat an intellectually disabled man for the pittance paid by Medicaid hasn't been easy. We've gotten some very shoddy care before finding the good dentist we now use.

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After watching yesterday’s bipartisan summit, Timothy Jost and I asked health policy experts in a variety of fields what they believe should happen. Within 12 hours, we received responses from 80 nationally prominent experts. Many signatories are familiar to readers of these pages: Jacob Hacker, Paul Starr, Theda Skocpol,  Ted Marmor, Len Nichols, Jon Gruber, David Cutler, Henry Aaron, and many other luminaries from the social sciences, medicine, and public health.

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Ben Nelson may be making trouble again. According to The Hill, the Democratic senator from Nebraska told a local radio station, KLIN, he's not sure Congress can still pass health care reform: I don't know if we can get a comprehensive bill through. Honestly, I just don't know. ... We may be forced to doing healthcare--to use my analogy--by making a pie a piece at a time, which is typically not the preferred way to handle legislation. But this is so big, and has so many moving parts and has so many supporters and detractors, that maybe that's the only thing you can do.

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Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of "ramming" or "jamming" health care reform through Congress by using the budget reconciliation process. Put aside all the familiar rejoinders--that Republicans used it all the time to pass their bills, that the reconciliation process merely allows a majority to pass a law, etc.

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Pushing for universal health care is the family business for Congressman John Dingell of Michigan. During the 1940s, his father, John Dingell Sr., sponsored the Dingell-Wagner-Murray bill, widely considered the first formal proposal for national health insurance. Today the son delivered one of the day's best lines, one that sent a message to skeptics on both the right and the left: ..the last perfect legislation was the Ten Commandments. This bill isn’t perfect, but it is a giant leap forward.

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Who won? It's the exact same question people asked in 2008, after each of the presidential debates. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. What's "winning"--scoring more debate points, making fewer gaffes, or simply appealing to more voters? And aren't all those judgments pretty subjective anyway? But if Thursday's event didn't produce a winner, it was clarifying. (Click here to read more.)

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