Tentative agreement among Senate Democrats to forgo a public option came as no surprise this week, as Democrats tried to move closer to garnering enough votes to pass a health care reform bill. In its place would be a national health plan to be administered by the government’s Office of Personnel Management, the overseeing body of the program that federal employees and members of Congress now enjoy.
The new insurance exchanges would be created by the private sector and made up of nonprofit entities. If no private insurers step up to offer a national plan, the Office of Personal Management will be authorized to set up a government-run plan.
Additionally, Medicare would be opened up to individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 who cannot obtain coverage through the employers or on the individual market. Eligible people in this age group would more than likely face far higher premiums than those 65 or older.
The Senate, unlike the House, rejected a proposal to tighten abortion limits beyond current law.
The Congressional Budget Office report on how it all pans out financially is pending.
The proposed legislation is expected to extend coverage to 30 million currently uninsured Americans, with tax subsidies to help low-income people comply with the mandate to purchase coverage. However, it still leaves far too many citizens out in the cold.
President Obama praised the Senate’s compromise on the public option, saying, “The Senate made critical progress last night with a creative new framework that I believe will help pave the way for final passage and an historic achievement.”
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, also appeared to be supportive of the idea of the insurance exchange and the expansion of Medicare, but is awaiting details.
Discussion is ongoing and the Senate is expected to continue discussions throughout the holidays. At this point, there’s no telling what kind of bill will result.
If a Senate bill does pass, the biggest hurdle still remains. Reconciling the Senate bill with the House bill could begin in January, but working out the differences in abortion rights, the public option, and how to pay for it all, among other things, will be in bitter dispute. The big fear would be more watering down of comprehensive reform.
We won’t have health care reform in 2009, but it is likely that some kind of bill will pass in 2010. It won’t be what the liberals wanted. It won’t be what the conservatives wanted. It’s probably going to saddle a lot of Americans with a mandate to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Sounds like a win for insurers.
Even if a reconciled health care reform bill passes, the fight for affordable and accessible health care for all Americans must continue.
Video: Associated Press, Dems Drop Gov’t-run Health Care Plan