Here's our latest health care round-up: Senate Finance Closer To Deal The Washington Post has the scoop of the morning, reporting that Senate negotiators in the crucial Finance Committee -- the only committee with jurisdiction over health care that hasn't yet ...
Here's our latest health care round-up:
Senate Finance Closer To Deal
The Washington Post has the scoop of the morning, reporting that Senate negotiators in the crucial Finance Committee -- the only committee with jurisdiction over health care that hasn't yet passed a bill -- may be close to reaching a bipartisan agreement. The "Gang of Six" will meet with President Obama today to discuss those details, which don't look promising with regards to the public option:
The emerging Finance Committee bill would shave about $100 billion off the projected trillion-dollar cost of the legislation over the next decade and eventually provide coverage to 94 percent of Americans, according to participants in the talks. It would expand Medicaid, crack down on insurers, abandon the government insurance option that President Obama is seeking and, for the first time, tax health-care benefits under the most generous plans. Backers say the bill would also offer the only concrete plan before Congress for reining in the skyrocketing cost of federal health programs over the long term.
The committee also seems to be coalescing around an idea pushed by Sen. John Kerry to raise revenue by taxing insurance companies on their most-expensive policies. Unlike the 2 percent surtax on the wealthy, this option has broader support.
How high the subsidy levels for the uninsured will extend and how the Medicaid expansion will be structured is still unknown. But right now, the objective is to get something out of committee by Obama's September 15 deadline to keep the ball rolling. If that can't be done in a bipartisan fashion, Obama says the Democrats may have to go at it alone. "I promise you, we will pass reform by the end of this year," he said in Indiana yesterday, "because the American people need it."
Broad Or Shallow Opposition?
On their newly redesigned site, Tribune reporter Janet Hook has an unnerving piece about the critics of Obama's reform effort who keep popping up at Congressional town halls across the country. To be sure, conservative activists are making their voices heard. Just last night in Normal, 300 people showed up to GOP Rep. Tim Johnson's health care meeting, mostly elderly and angry, including one woman who claimed "our country is going to be Marxist nation."
But Hook frames the piece around the idea that the "intensity of the opposition" is somehow indicative of the public's general skittishness about reform. As evidence, she cites one poll in the last paragraph that found support for Obama's health plan dropping slightly in the past month. But most other polls show that the health care reforms Obama has pushed for since campaign season are still very popular. After all, he was elected with wide margins less than a year ago running on those very principles. The Nation's Chris Hayes ably summed up how the media's fascination with the Tea Party phenomenom may be distorting the media's perspective:
The problem is the overwhelming instinct on the part of pundits and the MSM to look, and see old white men in overalls and Legionnaire hats and think they are watching someone give voice to the sentiments of broad swaths of the electorate. And it's just not true. What we're seeing at these events are the voices of radicals, extremists and zealots.
Suburban Congressmen Still Waffling
Yesterday, we pointed out that some suburban Democrats are still on the fence about whether to support the House package when it comes up for a full vote next month. That includes Rep. Melissa Bean, who the Pioneer Press notes has received a considerable amount of money from the health insurance lobby this year:
She has the task of keeping her constituents and contributors happy. Bean has raised $61,550 from insurance companies since the 2008 election, making insurance her top contributing industry, according to www.opensecrets.org.
In addition, the International Union of Operating Engineers is Bean's top single contributor since the 2008 election, donating $10,000, according to opensecrets, the Center for Responsive Politics' Web site.
[Correction (8/7): The $61,500 figure cited in the Pioneer Press story actually represents the amount Bean has received from the insurance industry at large and is mostly made up from property, casualty and life insurers such as AllState or State Farm. We're trying to track down the actual amount Bean received from health insurance interests in particular.]
The SouthtownStar's Kristen McQueary got in touch with staffers for Democratic Reps. Debbie Halvorson and Dan Lipinski, as well. Halvorson wouldn't commit one way or the other, but a spokesperson did say that the freshman congresswoman "is firm in her stance that reform cannot happen until we get it right." What she considers "right" is unclear.
Lipinski, who has already come out in support of a public option, also hinted that cost was a major factor in his decisionmaking. "It is critical," he said in a statement, "that this bill constitutes real reform and avoids pouring more money into a broken system."
Why We Fight
Finally, the Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney has a heart-wrenching story of a man from Libertyville who was denied coverage for a pre-existing condition after quitting his job to care for his mother and uncle in 2007. It's a good reminder about why this fight is so important: People's financial and physical life are at stake.