Health Care

Good Choice

Senator Ron Wyden has been promoting a universal health care plan for almost three years. And in the last few months, as it's become apparent that his plan wouldn't be the basis for final legislation, he's narrowed his cause to promoting one of its chief elements: "choice." The idea works this way: Under the proposals moving through Congress, most people with access to employer-sponsored insurance would have to take it.

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The business community is afraid of the public plan. David Williams says it shouldn't be. You'll never guess whose insurance policy pays for abortion services. Read Amy Sullivan to find out. The graphic truth about House versus Senate coverage provisions. Via the office of Rep. Jim Cooper, via Ezra Klein. That ridiculous claim of $700 billion in waste? Not so ridiculous after all. Christopher Weaver explains. And must-read of the day: Brian Beutler has reconstructed the deliberations about the public plan between the White House and Senate Democratic leadership.

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Could Evan Bayh be backing off his threat to join the Republican filibuster of the health care reform bill?

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Among the other important distinctions between the new House bill and what the Senate Finance Committee produced is the treatment of the pharmaceutical industry. The Senate Finance bill was true to the deal the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America struck with the White House and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, as first revealed by the New York Times and Huffington Post. PhRMA vowed to endorse reform and advertise on its behalf.

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Julie Appleby, at Kaiser Health News, uncovers a worrisome loophole in the Senate Finance legislation: The first year the legislation would take effect, people getting subsidized coverage would be required to pay from 2 to 12 percent of their incomes for insurance. The government would pick up the rest of the tab. People with lower incomes would pay less and those with higher incomes more. But in the second year, it changes.

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Score!

Speaker Nancy Pelosi relays word from the Congressional Budget Office: The legislation’s coverage cost will be $894 billion over 10 years, fully paid for. ... The legislation cuts the deficit by about $30 billion in the first ten-years (2010 – 2019).  CBO has indicated that in the period of 2016-2019, savings and revenues will grow significantly faster than coverage costs. Translation: This bill is fiscally responsible. And, unlike the House's previous effort, it doesn't simply push the deficits into the future.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just released the health care reform bill she will introduce on the floor, in hopes of a final vote in the next week to ten days. You can read the text here.

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With Joe Lieberman and, now, Evan Bayh threatening to support Republican filibusters of health care reform, it's worth taking a moment to contemplate what that would mean in terms of majority rule--or lack thereof. By most accounts, there are five non-Republican senators who might support a filibuster if reform includes a strong public option. The five are Evan Bayh, Mary Landreiu, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, and Ben Nelson. Assume, as a worst case scenario, all five were to follow through on the threat.

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Topic number one in health care reform right now is the public option--and, in particular, Senator Harry Reid's decision to push a bill that includes an "opt-out" proposal. But Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, had relatively little to say about it on Tuesday, when she appeared at TNR's health reform conference. Her keynote address barely touched upon the subject.

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Click here to read Jonathan Cohn's take on the comments made by Nancy-Ann Deparle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, about the public option at today's TNR health care conference. What good can the public option do if not enough people can access it? That’s the question that Senator Ron Wyden has been raising a lot lately. And he did it again this morning, at TNR's health care reform event.

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