Health Care

Harold Pollack is a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment. At the 11:57th hour, Republicans are set to announce their own health plan, as Jonathan notes below. According to the Wall Street Journal Mr. Boehner said the Republican bill would also propose grants for states that use "innovative" solutions to expand coverage.

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With the House set to vote on a full health care reform bill as early as this week, Republican leader John Boehner has announced that the GOP leadership will introduce a formal alternative of their own. The proper response, I suppose, is "Are you kidding?" By my count, it's been more than eight months since President Obama announced that health reform would be his top domestic priority, signalling that it would be the dominant issue of 2009. Republican leaders had countless opportunities to step forward with a proposal to hold up against the Democratic approach.

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House Minority Leader John Boehner recently released a memo arguing, among other things, that the House Democrats' health care bill would result in "massive cuts to Medicare benefits for seniors" and "a negative impact on seniors' benefits and choices." It's nothing the Republicans haven't said before. But this time, to justify the claim, Boehner said he was relying in part on a finding finding from Factcheck.org.

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More competition among insurers isn't always a good thing. (Austin Frakt, Incidental Economist) Dealing with Medicare is usually easier (or at least less difficult) than dealing with private insurers. (Joe Paduda, Managed Care Matters) The public option won't make a huge difference. (Eric Pianin, Mary Agnes Carey, Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News and Janet Adamy, Wall Street Journal) Obama's health care strategy: Brilliant! (Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times) Why we should eat dogs. And not the kind you get at the ballpark. (Jonathan Safran Foer, Wall Street Journal) 

For the moment, at least, House liberals still aren't backing away from their push to strengthen the public option in the reform bill. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, sent a letter to Pelosi on Friday that demanded an up-or-down vote on the Medicare-plus-5 rates--the strong public option that was passed up in favor of negotiated provider rates. The next best thing? Setting another pre-determined price "ceiling" for the weaker plan's negotiated rates, which Grijalva proposes in a separate amendment.

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Ezra Klein, channeling Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson: There is a simple explanation for why American health care costs so much more than health care in any other country: because we pay so much more for each unit of care.

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When Joe Lieberman declared on yesterday's “Face the Nation” that no health care reform bill at all would be preferable to one with the public option, he reminded me less of a wannabe John Boehner than a bombast on the other end of the political spectrum: Howard Dean. Like his former opponent, Dean is no stranger to grandstanding for attention. Less than two months ago, Dean made a similarly extreme proclamation at a DC town hall event I attended, declaring that no reform bill would be better than one without the public option.

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Misrepresentations

Anthony Wright is executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. He blogs daily at the Health Access Weblog and is a regular contributor to the Treatment. A week ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was upset when The Yes Men, a group of pranksters and activists, held a fake press conference, claiming that the Chamber has reversed their opposition to climate change legislation. It’s true that the Chamber was misrepresented.

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During the Bush years, a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government was writing a book called Savin’ it! on abstinence education in the public schools. As part of his research, he contacted then-Attorney General John Ashcroft with a request for personal testimony.

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While the House bill comes down much harder on Big Pharma than the Senate, it gives the medical device industry a big break. As The Wall Street Journal points out today, the House bill cuts the $40 billion tax on the device industry that’s in the Senate Finance Committee down to $20 million.

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