Final Thoughts On Health Care Reform

As I’m sure as you all know by now–despite all of the right-wing sound and fury, despite all of the astroturfed protests and fauxtrage and multi-million dollar campaigns–health care reform has become the law of the land.

Reform isn’t  ideal–I would have preferred a bill with a strong public option, if not single payer.  But this was a major undertaking with a lot of competing factions that had to be placated.  In the end, it was still a very good bill that was very much worth passing, and it gives us a good basis for future reforms (and I”m hoping the absence of the right’s promised health care apocalypse will serve to undermine whatever hyperbolic claims they make about the next stage of reform).

While health care reform isn’t exactly popular, some more recent polling seems to show opposition decreasing and support increasing.  In that vein, I think that support for health care reform hit its nadir and is likely to increase over time.

Why? Because its easy to get people angry about a bill still under construction, a bill that nobody knows what it will end up looking like in the end, especially when that bill is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. But now that reform has passed and will start going into effect, it will hard for people to believe the right’s misinformation because they’ll be experiencing the benefits of reform firsthand.

Republicans worked so hard to prevent this bill from becoming law because they knew that, once enacted, it would turn out to be politically popular.  Let’s face it, covering 35 million additional Americans, reducing the deficit, eliminating practices like discrimination based on preexisting conditions all while helping middle-class individuals and families to buy better, cheaper insurance are all very good policies.  The right sought to drown those good policies in a sea of misinformation, and they almost succeeded. But now that reform has become law, it’ll become increasingly difficult for the GOP to sustain such strong opposition.

That’s why I think the oft-rumored GOP campaign to repeal health care reform is a dud–who’s going to say they want to take health care away from 35 million Americans? Who’s going to say they want to repeal a bill that reduces the deficit? Who’s going to campaign on letting insurers deny coverage because of preexisting conditions and yank people’s coverage as soon as they get seriously ill?

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Finish The Job

The CBO has scored the reconciliation version of health care reform. Here are the details:

1. CUTS THE DEFICIT Cuts the deficit by $130 billion in the first ten years (2010 – 2019). Cuts the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second ten years.

2. REINS IN WASTEFUL MEDICARE COSTS AND EXTENDS THE SOLVENCY OF MEDICARE; CLOSES THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG DONUT HOLE Reduces annual growth in Medicare expenditures by 1.4 percentage points per year—while improving benefits and lowering costs for seniors. Extends Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years.

3. EXPANDS AND IMPROVES HEALTH COVERAGE FOR MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES Expands health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans Helps guarantee that 95 percent of Americans will be covered.

4. IS FULLY PAID FOR Is fully paid for – costs $940 billion over a decade. (Americans spend nearly $2.5 trillion each year on health care now and nearly two-thirds of the bill’s cost is paid for by reducing health care costs).

As Ezra Klein points out, the reconciliation version of health care reform will reduces the deficit more than either the House or Senate version, and it covers more people than the Senate version.

We’ve waited for this long enough. We’ve debated this long enough. It’s time to finish healthcare reform once and for all.

Both the House and Senate have already passed health care reform–it’s just a matter of reconciling the two bills and sending them to the President’s desk.

After nearly 100 years of debate, we’re on the verge of passing real health care reform once and for all. It’s time to end this.

Also…

Adding to what  I wrote earlier today, can we please stop treating reconciliation like some kind of unprecedented democracy-ending apocalypse?

The Republicans used reconciliation 7 times between 1995 and 2007–the latest time they used it was to pass a health care reform bill.  At no point was the GOP’s use of reconciliation ever portrayed in any way as scandalous or controversial.

Nor should it have been, since reconciliation is part of the Senate rules–it’s a perfectly legitimate procedure that has been around for decades. If the GOP opposed reconciliation then they should have tried to change the standing rules of the Senate when the 111th Congress began.

There’s something inherently dishonest and shameful about complaining when someone else uses a rule that you had taken advantage of and that you let stand without objection.

The GOP’s sudden opposition to reconciliation is dishonest and hypocritical, and nobody should talk about the reconciliation process without bringing that fact up.

A Few Thoughts On Health Care Reform

First, Republicans will pick up seats in November. But can we all stop treating it as proof of some kind of Republican comeback or national opposition to health care reform? It’s standard for the party in power to lose seats in the first election after taking the White House.

It happened in 1994, 1990, 1982, 1978, 1970, 1966, 1962, 1954 and 1946 (2002 and 1974 were exceptions for what should be obvious reasons)–in other words, it’s a phenomenon that goes all the way back to the days of Harry Truman.

So the GOP will win seats this fall, but it’s not exactly the sign of a Republican resurgence–it’s just a normal cyclical phenomenon that has been part of American politics for nearly 70 years.

Second, conservatives keep pointing to the polls showing how unpopular health care reform is as reason why Democrats shouldn’t pass it.

But the entire conservative movement has been waging a year-long misinformation campaign on health care reform–they’ve spent a year lying to and scaring the American people.

So the question isn’t really whether or not the American people support health care reform, but if they even know what reform would do.

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BREAKING: Democrats Will Use Reconciliation To Pass Health Care Reform (UPDATED)

Politico Breaking News reports:

Sen. Tom Harkin tells POLITICO that Senate Democratic leaders have decided to go the reconciliation route for health care reform. The House, he said, will first pass the Senate bill after Senate leaders demonstrate that they have the votes to pass reconciliation in the Senate.

It’s about time–if Democrats can pass health care reform within the scope of Congressional rules then they should.

And if any conservative tries to whine about this they should be reminded that–between 1995 and 2007 alone–the GOP used reconciliation 7 times.

And do you know what the most recent bill the GOP passed through reconciliation was? It was a health care reform bill, passed in 2005.

UPDATED: People should also remember that Congress won’t be passing the entire health care reform bill through reconciliation.

Health care reform already passed through the House and Senate–the problem here is that the House bill and Senate bill differ slightly.

So reconciliation will be used to, well, reconcile the two bills into one so that it can be sent to the President’s desk.

Just remember that health care reform has already passed through Congress–this is merely intended to iron out the differences between the two versions.

An Important Distinction

Reconciliation is a process, outlined in the Senate rules, through which certain kinds of bills can be passed by a simple majority.

The ‘nuclear option’ was a proposed change to Senate rules that would have eliminated the filibuster in all circumstances.

Why bring this up? Because Republicans are pretending that the nuclear option and reconciliation are the same thing–they’re trying to attack Democrats as hypocrites for opposing the nuclear option but supporting reconciliation for health care reform.

Sorry, Republicans, but words have meanings–you can’t just redefine them in order to smear your political opponents. Reconciliation and the nuclear option are not the same thing, no matter how often you lie about it.

UPDATE: And if conservatives try to claim that reconciliation is rarely-used or somehow unprecedented they should be reminded that–between 1995 and 2007–the GOP used reconciliation 7 times.

Most recently, the GOP used reconciliation to pass–wait for it–a health care reform bill:

  • 2005 – Legislation That Reduced Spending on Medicaid and Raised Premiums on Upper-Income Medicare Beneficiaries
  • 2003 – President Bush’s 2003 Tax Cuts
  • 2001 – President Bush’s Signature $1.35 Trillion Tax Cut
  • 2000 – $292 Billion “Marriage Penalty” Tax Cut (VETOED)
  • 1997 – Balanced Budget Act
  • 1996 – Legislation to Enact Welfare Reform
  • 1995 – “Contract With America” Agenda

[Emphasis mine]