Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Health Care: Reid Unveils $849 Billion Senate Bill

It's here!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has convened a late-evening meeting tonight of the Democratic caucus to present to fellow senators the $849 billion health care reform bill he has been crafting behind closed doors for weeks.

After an intense day of talks, including a huddle with Vice President Joseph Biden, Reid emerged from the east doors of the Senate chamber at 5 p.m. for the short walk across the hall to the room where senators were assembling. A giant monitor was set for Reid's power-point presentation.

An aide said the $849 billion bill Reid had crafted would reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion in 10 years, and would ensure 94 percent of Americans would be covered by insurance at that time. The bill's price tag is less than the nearly $1.1 trillion bill passed by the House earlier this month.

So far, not too many surprises. Yes, the public option (with state opt-out but NO TRIGGERS) is still there. Yes, the deficit will be reduced. Yes, the tax on workers' health care benefits will be rolled back and replaced with a Medicare surtax on those earning $250,000+ per year.

Oh, and here's some extra good news. While the ConservaDems are pushing to kill the public option, progressives are now pushing back to save it.

Another Democrat, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, said his support for proceeding is in doubt unless the government-run insurance program, or public option, is included in the plan.

“I’m not going to support a bill that’s a competition-free zone,” Wyden told reporters yesterday.

Good on Wyden for joining Roland Burris (D-Illinois) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in the "Progressive Block"! Hopefully they'll be three more reasons for Harry Reid to keep the bill as strong as possible.

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