Friday, July 31, 2009

Yay for Health Care Deal? UPDATED!

Original 9:50 AM post:

For me, the jury's still out on this emerging health care deal in the House Energy & Commerce Committee. On one hand, it looks like progressives got some subsidies to working poor families reinstated as a Republican attempt to again attack women's reproductive rights failed. However, the public option still looks weakened and many House progressives are still concerned about the remaining Blue Dog approved reductions in aid to low and middle-income working families.

The liberal lawmakers voiced concern that the agreement would reduce federal subsidies intended to help people with low or moderate incomes buy insurance. In addition, they contended that the deal would weaken the proposed new government health insurance plan, which would compete with private insurers.

Moreover, the liberals also expressed a political concern, saying House leaders had compromised too early. “Under the agreement, private insurers are coming off unscathed,” said Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont.

He added, “They do quite well — too well, frankly.”

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York, said, “The public plan was eviscerated” under the deal announced Wednesday to get the bill moving again in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mr. Engel was less than enthusiastic about the resulting legislation. “It’s not a terrible bill,” he said, “but it’s not what I had hoped for.”

Meanwhile, some freshman Democrats still act like they have to be afraid of something that a strong majority of Americans support. It seems they still don't realize that if they can't support health care reform, then there's no point in running for reelection. Now is the time to get it done, and now is the time to enact a comprehensive solution that will get most everyone covered, ensure that we the consumers get the most out of what we pay, and lower costs across the board.

So hopefully, the final House bill will still be worth supporting. And hopefully, it will be able to push the final conference bill to the left, which means to actual sanity. I guess I'm still encouraged, but I'm also definitely keeping a watchful eye on these negotiations.

UPDATE: More details have emerged on the new House Energy & Commerce deal on health care. And fortunately, it looks like progressives are improving it.

[M]any liberals on Waxman's panel balked at some of the concessions, particularly an agreement that cut subsidies to low- and middle-income families for insurance premiums. This provided potentially more than $50 billion in savings to the overall cost of the legislation, but at the cost of cutting into working-class earners' ability to get affordable insurance.

"That added insult to injury," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who helped negotiate the deal reached Friday morning.

The new deal, expected to be agreed to in an amendment to the 1,000-page package Friday afternoon, would find savings in part by forcing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay claims electronically and by allowing the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices under the Medicare program.

Calling this a "unity amendment," the liberal and conservative Democrats hope to steer those savings back into subsidies for lower-income people in a health insurance exchange.

"We don't want to take that out of the hide of middle- and lower-class people," DeGette said.

DeGette said the original deal cut too deeply into the legislation's government-financed public plan, in which liberals had hoped to tie payments for health-care providers to Medicare rates, which are generally lower than what private insurers pay out. That deal forced the public plan to negotiate its payments with doctors and hospitals similar to the way private insurance companies currently do. The conservative Democrats who pushed for the arrangement argued that Medicare's rates traditionally were lower to rural hospitals and doctors as opposed to urban hospitals.

Hopefully, this means progressives are taking control of the health care debate and making Democratic leadership pass a good bill.

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