Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Status of Healthcare Reform

Look's like I wasn't the only one working yesterday, as Ezra Klein had a few informative posts on what is in the Max Baucus plan (just a draft has been circulated at this point... nothing official). In case you haven't been following the ins and outs of the reform debate (and believe me, I don't blame you), Max Baucus is one of the more conservative Dems out there and chairman of the Senate Finance committee... one of the two committees with jurisdiction over reform. Back in the doe-eyed and innocent days of January, when it seemed reform might garner some bipartisan support from Senators not living in Maine... Baucus started to craft this legislation with some Republicans on the Finance Committee. The proposed bill is much more conservative than any progressives are going to want... there's no public option and the subsidies aren't particularly generous, but as Ezra notes it's not all bad news, since we seem to have established a floor:
The range of possibilities is now between the $900-or-so billion envisioned by Baucus and the $1.1 trillion envisioned by the House plan. That cements a consensus in advance of the president's speech laying out the White House's plan: Obama, after all, can hardly emerge with a stingier proposal than Baucus has offered.

That said, $900 billion is still less money than you really want for this plan. Something around $1.2 trillion is a better bet for doing this right. The difference there is a pretty manageable $30 billion a year. The hope is that Baucus's bill looks better after it's amended by the other Democrats on the Finance Committee, merged with the more generous HELP Committee bill, and then tweaked on the Senate floor by the Democrats left out of both processes. But the fact that we're talking about $900 billion as opposed to $700 billion means we're in a much better place than we could have been.

Brian Beutler says the next step is just to get it out of committee so it can be merged with what's already out of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee... and that's where we'll see what kind of compromise we'll get on the public option. House Dems have been pretty adamant on not voting for a plan that doesn't have a public option... so I dunno... should be interesting.