Another note from today's New York Times:
Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.So, who's represented at the so-called "Workhorse group"?
The 20 people who regularly attend the meetings on Capitol Hill include lobbyists for AARP, Aetna, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the American Cancer Society, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Business Roundtable, Easter Seals, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and the United States Chamber of Commerce.Dr Wes is annoyed at the representation of so many interest groups. I would counter, however, that a big part of the reason health care reform failed in 1993 was the failure of the Clinton administration to get all the stakeholders together and to come to consensus prior to the introduction of legislation. If the Chamber of Commerce is not on board, they will be on the outside throwing hand grenades and disrupting the process. They may never sign on -- I don't know. But AHIP and NFIB were active opponents of health care reform the last go-round, and if they are on board, that may go a great way towards removing massive obstacles to the legislation.
The key points of the emerging "fragile consensus" seem to be:
- A mandate for all persons who can afford it to purchase health insurance;
- Means-tested subsidies of the cost of purchase, for those who qualify;
- Enforcement of the mandate via a tax penalty;
- Community rating for private health plans;
- A "Floor," or minimum standards for benefits provided by heath plans;
- Expansion of Medicaid eligibility.
- Pay or Play, or a requirement for large employers to provide health benefits or pay a supplemental tax;
- A public plan, such as opening the FEHBP to any citizen, to compete against private insurance plans.
Also interesting is the fact that the republicans have chosen to absent themselves from the process. One can infer from this that they will take the same tactic on health care reform that they did for the stimulus. Namely, whine about the lack of "bipartisanship" and reflexively oppose. Of course, if right-wing organizations like the Chamber of Commerce are in support, it will be hard to make any credible claim that this is ideologically-driven left-wing partisanship. This legislation is also more likely to attract support from GOP moderates like Snowe, Collins and Specter, making the obstructionists in the rest of the dead-end caucus that much more irrelevant. Just as well, since they still don't seem to have any new ideas.
One more note: apparently Obama is going to use his big Budget speech on Tuesday to open the debate about health care reform, and as I mentioned previously, Baucus is beginning Senate hearings on reform the very next day. And so it begins.