Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm with O

I didn't get to see President Obama's speech on health care reform last night until the replays. My comments about it in a moment. One thing I noticed when I got back and logged on (through CNN) was that there was a short, three-page document that outlined "the President's plan". Today's reports feature the text of his speech, and all the buzz around it, but nowhere today can I find a reference to this document, which I consider absolutely essential.

In it, President Obama makes very clear the key points he wants in the bill--they are presented unambiguously (even if the financial targets may be a big stretch). I was wrong, and Obama has come around to a mandate for all individuals to take insurance--but in the context of choice that includes a public option, subsidies for individuals, and, apparently, a waiver for those who can still not afford it.

I am still seeing editorials that say: which plan? where is the plan? Yes, it is a three-pager of talking points, not fully-drafted legislation, but this is a plan I endorse in its entirety--unlike the draft Baucus plan, which has many unacceptable proposals. I want to see this plan endorsed immediately by the full Democratic delegation, which will force the Republicans to play ball, to get their pet peeves (like malpractice reform, or a specific--but unworthy and unlikely--denial of coverage to illegal immigrants) included.

I believe his speech was a game-changer, in this sense: nobody who says they want to "scrap it all and start over" will be a participant in the discussion anymore. There will be a bill, it will start with the 80% of the policy that is agreed upon, and the rest, as Barney Frank says, will be "a negotiation". The public option may be given up, but only when other conditions which require it--like the individual mandate, the Exchange, and the limits on rates for pre-existing conditions or age-based rates--are properly controlled. Again, I can accept that, as long as there is a recorded floor vote on a public option.

The bill will contain some of these negotiated elements if they can get enough Republican support to make sure 60 votes will back it in the Senate (they'll need at least one, with Kennedy's seat vacant). Otherwise, a version that is closer to the House version with less of these negotiated elements will pass--as much as can get by the Senate parliamentarian for being germane to budget reconciliation--with 51 votes or more.

Again, keep this document of Obama's plan for future reference as the bill emerges onto the Senate floor.

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