Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson–the final hold-out–finally gets on board with health care reform, giving Democrats the 60 votes they need to pass the bill through the Senate.
Here’s more on the Senate’s final health care compromise:
Jubilant Democrats locked in Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson as the 60th and decisive vote for historic health care legislation Saturday, putting President Barack Obama’s signature issue firmly on a path for Christmas Eve passage.
At the White House, Obama swiftly welcomed the breakthrough, saying, “After a nearly century-long struggle, we are on the cusp of making health care reform a reality in the United States of America.”
The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate bill would extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who lack it. It also imposes new regulations to curb abuses of the insurance industry, and the president noted one last-minute addition would impose penalties on companies that “arbitrarily jack up prices” in advance of the legislation taking effect.
CBO analysts also said the legislation would cut federal deficits by $132 billion over 10 years and possibly much more in the subsequent decade.
At its core, the legislation would create a new insurance exchange where consumers could shop for affordable coverage that complied with new federal guidelines. Most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, with federal subsidies available to help defray the cost for lower and middle income individuals and families.
And Nate Silver notes how the new compromise is, in some ways, better than the previous Senate compromise:
For instance: the CLASS Act has survived; the ban on lifetime coverage limits was restored; there was no tinkering with the Medicaid provisions; there’s some Ron Wyden like amendment to permit workers to opt out of their employer-provided coverage and purchase insurance on the exchanges instead; the abortion language in the Senate’s bill is milder than that which is already in the House’s (to an extent that may actually be a problem); a provision to allow people to purchase insurance through non-profit programs organized by the OPM was inserted, and some decent medical loss ratios were established.
Silver thinks that the kill-the-bill folks weren’t actually trying to defeat the bill, but that they were trying pressure lawmakers from the left in order to improve the final Senate compromise. If that was their goal then they succeeded–this compromise is better than the last one in a number of important ways.
As I’ve said before, passing something is better than passing nothing at all–improving our broken health care system somewhat is still a step in the right direction. We can continue improving our health care system piecemeal throughout the coming months and years, but since there’s only so much we’re going to be able to do with this health care reform push we should do all that we can now.
I think the Democratic leadership is going to try to avoid going through reconciliation–which would necessitate that both the House and Senate pass the reconciled bill–by simply having the House pass the Senate’s version of the bill. That may be somewhat problematic, since the Senate bill’s restrictions on abortion are far less-reaching than those in the House bill, but I think skipping reconciliation would pose the path of least resistance in this case.
I’m not pleased with the Nelsons and Liebermans and Stupaks who made this bill far less effective and comprehensive than it could have been. I’m certainly not pleased with the Republicans, whose relentless filibustering have imposed an unrealistic 60-vote standard on everything, making this country damn near ungovernable. And while the Democrats certainly made use of the filibuster when they were the minority, they didn’t filibuster everything like the Republicans are, so perhaps some change to the Senate rules regarding the use of the filibuster is in order.
But all of that can be dealt with later. For now, we need to pass health care reform, if for nothing else than for the 45,000 Americans who die each year because of our broken health care system.