Monday, February 22, 2010

President Obama Releases his Health Care Plan Without Inclusion of a Public Option

President Obama has drafted and released his own 11-page plan for health care reform ahead of the planned bi-partisan summit. The President's plan is said to bridge the differences that are found in the Senate and House legislation and will almost certainly be the starting point from which a renewed debate will take place.

Igor Volsky describes
some of what is in the President's plan:

The Obama plan maintains key elements of the Senate proposal but also incorporates stronger anti-fraud provisions and allows the federal government to review insurance rate hikes. On a call with reporters Pfeiffer insisted that the administration has not determined “on which path to move forward with”, but the bill’s substance suggests that Obama is hoping to bypass a prolonged-Senate debate and use the reconciliation process to fix the Senate bill and convince reluctant House progressives to pass the Senate legislation.

Volsky also has a great table that breaks down the differences in the three bills that you can check out by following the link above.

Jason Rosenbaum also does a good job at breaking down some of what is in the bill.

Here is how he describes Obama's employer-based plan:
The President’s plan, though not a full "pay or play" system, moves towards reconciling the House and Senate bills. If a business does not offer coverage, it must pay $2,000 per worker to help cover the cost of insuring its employees. The White House estimates that this amount is one-third less than the average amount businesses would pay under the House proposal.

and on taxing middle class plans:

The President’s plan does not do away with the excise tax entirely, but it makes some significant changes. The threshold at which the tax kicks in was moved from $23,000 as the cost of a health care plan in the Senate bill to $27,500 for families and from $8,500 to $10,200 for individuals, and the tax would not kick in until 2018.

In addition, dental and vision benefits won’t be part of the cost calculation, in effect raising the threshold higher.

Perhaps one of the most interesting elements that Obama's bill does NOT contain, is a public option. Though the public option remains quite popular with the populace, Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs has indicated that it will be up to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to get the Senate to pass this piece of the health care puzzle.

David Dayen makes a salient point on this:

We have seen this before during the health care debate. The House says it’s up to the Senate to determine what can pass. The Senate says it’s up to the White House to expend the political capital to get it across the line. And the White House punts it right back to Congress. Nobody wants to actually be responsible for the demise of the popular measure, but everyone wants to be on its side. Therefore you get the preposterous claim from Dan Pfeiffer today that the President didn’t include a public option in his proposal, but he supports it.

So once again we are back to wondering if the public option is going to survive another round of debate and negotiation. If Obama supports the public option, he sure has a funny way of showing it. If he really thought it was a plan that he could get behind, he would put it in the legislation that has his name on it. Since he did not do this, one can only surmise that he does not feel strongly enough to put his full weight behind a true public option.

As for the Republicans, here is a situation that fully illustrates their tactics on this matter.

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) sent a letter to the White House on February 8 asking them to post online any health care legislation that they wanted to discuss at the health care summit. Boehner stated:

If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand?

The White House did just this:

Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package.

Boehner then attacked
the White House for doing what he had asked them to do in the first place:
"A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper," Boehner said in a statement.

It will be interesting to see what happens at this summit.

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