[Posted by Karl]
How is the government takeover of the US healthcare system going? According to The Politico:
As Congress returns from the Fourth of July recess, negotiators tell us that the die may be cast on health reform over the NEXT TWO WEEKS. If bills are going to be passed off both floors by the end of the month, they’ll need to be in shape by then.
On the other hand, Roll Call reports:
Senate Democratic leaders’ hopes of approving health care reform before adjourning for the August recess appear all but dead, with the prospect of meeting President Barack Obama’s demand for a bill on his desk by Oct. 15 looking increasingly difficult.
Logistical hurdles in the Senate, while significant, are only part of the problem. A major political battle looms over the key components of health care reform — particularly over the role of the federal government — that could stall Democrats even after they gained a filibuster-proof majority with the addition of Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.).
[P]olitical difficulties abound in Obama’s push to overhaul the nation’s $2.3 trillion health care system this year.
Congressional Republicans and other opponents of Obama’s health care agenda are sure to use next month’s recess to sow doubts about the legislation, particularly the cost of reform and the so-called public option for health insurance.
Even Democratic allies such as organized labor might go on the offensive in August, either to push for a more robust government-run insurance option, or to discourage Obama and Congress from taxing health care benefits to help finance reform, a proposal that remains under serious consideration. In fact, both conservative and liberal advocacy groups actively opposed Senate Democrats during the Fourth of July recess.
“The longer something’s laying out there, it’s a target,” said one downtown operative monitoring the health care debate. “It’s a target for all of the vulnerable folks who are going to have to make a tough call on it.”
However, an insurance industry insider speculated that the August recess could allow policy experts to examine the legislation and recommend changes that strengthen the bill in advance of a presumed fall floor debate.
Or it will be just more time for the more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress to spend $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.
But wait, there’s more! If conservative and liberal advocacy groups and stakeholder lobbyists were not enough, there are the wildly competing demands of constituents at town halls when they go home. Moreover, major questions like payment are subject to regional politics on top of party politics. Will blue staters be subsidizing red staters? Or will covering working-class people in high-cost-of-living states drive up the costs Congress is trying to drive down?
Speaking of cost savings, three hospital associations agreed to contribute $155 billion over 10 years toward the cost of insuring the 47 million Americans without health coverage. Too bad that’s less than the $215 billion previously pledged, and a fraction of the $2.2 trillion Pres. Obama promised. About $100 billion would come through lower-than-expected Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals, driving up costs in the private sector. Another $40 billion will get kicked back through a new government-sponsored insurance program, will not pay at Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement rates (until the feds double-cross them later when the money gets tight).
That all presumes there will be a new government-sponsored insurance program. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel now says that Pres. Obama is open to a “public option” with a “trigger,” despite fears on the Left that a “trigger” will gut their takeover attempt.
Obama’s flexibility can be explained in part by the polls, which continue to show that a public plan — and Obamacare generally — is popular… unless people have to pay for it:
Although 69 percent of voters nationwide say Americans should have the option of government- run health insurance, only 28 percent would choose to be covered by it, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Voters say 49 – 45 percent they would pay more to reform health care, but a total of 72 percent don’t want to pay more than $500 a year.
As Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, put it: “[S]even out of ten voters aren’t willing to chip in what amounts to the price of a cheese pizza per week – without extra toppings – in order to finance an overhaul.” In addition, while 55% support limiting tax deductions for those earning more than $250,000 to finance a health-care program, by 46-38 %, they realize the government cannot raise enough to finance healthcare reform that way. Furthermore, when asked, “If a health care overhaul plan lowered your health care costs and insured all Americans, — but limited your choice of doctor, hospital or treatment, would you support or oppose such a plan?”, people oppose it by a 66%-30% landslide.
Given all of the above, you might think the government takeover of healthcare is not going well. But if the Democratic strategy is to move any two bills into a House-Senate conference and strongarm moderate Dems into not filibustering whatever gets drafted in the back room, these are relatively small hurdles to overcome.