Are Democrats about to get behind more Medicare cuts, as part of a deal to reduce the deficit? Sam Stein of the Huffington Post says it’s a distinct possibility. The latest clue is a statement by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, made after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced he was withdrawing from the bipartisan debt ceiling talks: I think we should stay at the table. I think we should keep working, difficult as it is, and try to balance between Medicare cuts—additional Medicare cuts—so long as there is commensurate additional revenue.
That controversial McKinsey & Company study, the predicting severe disruptions from health care reform, isn't going away. It may be at odds with what the Congressional Budget Office, Rand Corporation, and Urban Institute found.
The Ryan budget represents nothing less than a wholesale assault on the welfare state, obliterating the Affordable Care Act while breaking the fundamental promises of Medicare and Medicaid. Are Democrats going to realize that? Will they say so? At least one prominent Democrat, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, seems up for it: Independent experts agree the House Plan would make deep cuts to the Medicare benefits seniors count on. It would end Medicare as we know it and funnel Medicare dollars directly into private insurance companies’ pockets.
Is there an honest constitutional argument against the individual mandate? Of course there is. The constitution is ambiguous and open to conflicting interpretations. But are the people making constitutional arguments against the mandate being honest? Count me as very skeptical. As you probably know by now, many of the conservatives in high dudgeon about the individual mandate had no problem with it when it was a staple of Republican health care proposals.
David Brooks thinks it. David Gregory thinks it. The Washington Post editorial page thinks it. And, what the heck, I think it. If health care reform passes Congress, the final legislation probably won't cut the cost of medical care as quickly as seems possible on paper. But would the legislation make a good start--as good a start as possible, given political reality? Brooks, Gregory, the Post, and plenty of other critics seem to think the answer is "no." I think they are nuts.
President Obama is making good on his pledge, first put forth in the State of the Union, to reach out to Republicans on health care reform. In a CBS News interview with Katie Couric that just aired, Obama announced that he's inviting Republican leaders to the White House this week to put their ideas on the table--and then holding a public forum to discuss them. White House officials say the forum will be February 25. The meeting will be open press, with C-Span (and, I presume, other networks) televising the whole thing.
When the Democrats announced that they would be forgoing conference committee proceedings and negotiating a final health care reform bill informally, critics pounced on President Barack Obama for violating his promise of greater transparency in government. And I, for one, had no great urge to defend him. As a presidential candidate, Obama had not merely promised to introduce more transparency to government.
A few weeks ago, Capitol Hill sources began warning that the Senate leadership might decide to offer extra assistance to the middle class by taking money away from the poor. Now it looks like they've done it, albeit in a convoluted way that helps some people even as it hurts others. It's not easy to see and, predictably, it's not easy to explain. But here's my best shot, based on conversations with analysts and experts who have studied the bill's language. A key feature of health reform are the subsidies that the government would make available through the new insurance exchanges.
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. When Senate Majority Leader Reid held a press conference announcing the inclusion of a version of a public health insurance option in the merged Senate health reform bill, he didn’t mention the outcome of another major difference between the two Senate committee proposals--what would be responsibility of employers with regard to on-the-job coverage.
It's out! Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus just released his proposal for health care reform. It's a "chairman's mark," which, again, means it's written in regular English rather than the gobbledygook of legislation. Gobbledygookification will take place later on, when--and if--the full Finance Committee passes it. Whether that will happen is unclear. In the last twelve hours, committee Democrats who were not part of Baucus's bipartisan Gang of Six have raised all sorts of objections.