Sunday, November 8, 2009

Health Care: All Eyes on the Senate

On the Health Care front, things are now getting very

In a huge victory for President Barack Obama and
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House passed its
version of Health Care reform on a narrow 220-215
roll call vote.

As expected, this one came down to the wire, with 219
Democrats and one Republican voting "yes" and
176 Republicans and 39 rural, small-state Democrats
voting "no".

On paper, the House bill appears to be significant reform.
Among other things, it includes a government-sponsored
Public Option, a requirement that by 2013 all those not
covered by insurance purchase it, requirements that all
but the smallest employers offer coverage to their
employees, and an end to denial of claims and coverage
by insurers on the grounds of "pre-existing medical

The House bill also goes further in that it also vastly
restricts premium rating by age, gender and geography
and ends the anti-trust exemption for the Health
Insurance industry.

But now comes the hard part.

This whole thing now has to go to the Senate, where
Harry Reid has to do the almost impossible.

He has to reconcile two diametrically opposite Senate
versions of the Health Care bill - one from the Health,
Education and Labor Committee that, with the exception
of a Public Option, tracks fairly closely with the House
version, with another from the Senate Finance
Committee that, with the exception of a coverage mandate,
does little to extend coverage to the uninsured or make
"health care" more affordable.

And it is this "internal reconciliation" debate inside the
Senate where the Health Care battle will be ultimately
won or lost.

And, I think it will go down to ultimate defeat. Here's why:

First of all, the "lowering of expectations" has already begun.
Senator Reid has already stated that the Senate's debate will
not start until after Thanksgiving and that final action will most
likely slip until early next year. That means that the insurance
companies, Big Pharma, the hospital chains and the AMA still
have time to hand out yet more campaign donations to stop

Second, the Republican leadership is already on record as
saying that they will accept no bill that does not preserve the
health and viability of the for-profit health insurance industry.
That means no public option. No rate regulation. No limits
on claim or coverage denials. No removal of the anti-trust
exemption. In short, no changes at all except the coverage
mandate, which will provide 30 million new customers
for the industry.

You have to give them credit. Once bought, they stay bought.

So, to get the necessary 60 votes to end debate and get
something passed, Reid is going to have to go hunting
among the "Blue Dogs" - Senators such as Max Baucus,
Ben Nelson, Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad, and others.

Good luck with that.

These Senators have been the recipients of record
contributions from both the Health Insurance industry
and Big Pharma, and it's inconceivable that they would
stiff their benefactors. And ideologically, they might as
well be Republicans, with their insistence on "fiscal
responsibility" and " the private sector knows best".

Coming from small isolated states with little industry
or other mass employment, it's not hard to understand
their point of view. And it's also easy to understand how
Big Money from Big Interests can sway

Where they're from they don't see a lot of that.

And that means it's a done deal. In America,
Organized Money always beats a disorganized public.
But, there's always a chance.

Which is what will make this upcoming debate so

1 comment:

  1. At first, I was shocked and appalled that the vote was as close as it was, that people who voted against it were Democrats. Some of them are progressive stalwarts like Dennis Kucinich who rightly pegged the House bill as a giveaway to the insurance industry with a lackluster public option that most people can't enter into. It is sad we couldn't pass the best bill now but fortunately we can strengthen it later.

    But for the rural red-district Dems who voted against it for being too liberal those people should be ashamed for being afraid to stand up on principle. Even worse is just to believe as Republicans do. We don't need blue dog dems.

    Harry Reid, fighting the good fight ever since he came out in favor of the public option, now has no choice but to use reconciliation- most likely tack health care onto a mandatory spending bill- in order to avoid the GOP/Lieberman filibuster. A reconciled Senate health care bill can be as liberal as possible and be fairly close to what the House passed.

    The teabaggers lost all credibility- you know, being American- by comparing health care reform to the Holocaust. I hope Obama takes more concrete action to protect us domestically and moves the Senate to ensure speedy passage and gives Harry Reid the courage to do reconciliation so health care can be passed by majority vote and then signed into law.