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House to Vote on Health Care Bill Saturday

The House of Representatives will vote on the health care reform bill Saturday. The Republicans are offering their own bill, which is woefully inadequate:

The [Republican] measure would cover 3 million additional people at a cost of $60 billion through 2019, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The Democrats' bill, by comparison, would cover far more -- 36 million additional Americans -- at a much higher cost -- $1.055 trillion through 2019, the CBO has said.

It would also result in more than 52 million uninusred Americans ten years from now. The Democrats' House bill would cover 96% of Americans in ten years. The AARP will announce its support for the House bill Thursday.

Revisions to the bill to rein in health insurance premium hikes have been introduced: [More...]

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AP: Public Option Will Only Cover 2% of Americans

The Associated Press reports that number crunching shows that only 2% of Americans under age 65 will receive health insurance under the public option proposed in the House bill.

The Democratic health care bills would extend coverage to the uninsured by providing government help with premiums and prohibiting insurers from excluding people in poor health or charging them more. But to keep from piling more on the federal deficit, most of the uninsured will have to wait until 2013 for help. Even then, many will have to pay a significant share of their own health care costs.

[More...]

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Negotiated Rates vs. Medicare +5%

Scarecrow at Firedoglake explains the consequential difference between negotiated rates (in the House Health Care Reform Bill) and the Medicare +5% wanted by progressives:

CBO estimated that a Public Option available only to the uninsured, self-insured and small businesses (less than 20 employees) would have saved the federal budget $110 billion over ten years, if the PO paid health care providers at Medicare rates plus 5 percent. The savings would be only $25 billion if the PO were required to negotiate rates with providers. If Congress chooses negotiated rates, it raises budget costs by $85 billion for the limited access exchange(s).

[More...]

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House Introduces Health Care Bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the House Health Care reform bill today. As predicted, it does not have the "robust" public option:

House leaders abandoned an earlier effort to include a public option that would have established reimbursement rates to providers based on Medicare. Although the provision was backed by liberals, it lacked enough votes to pass. Rural Democrats strongly opposed that approach because of the potentially ruinous effect on doctors and hospitals in their districts, where Medicare rates are generally well below the national average.

Instead, Pelosi is offering a more moderate alternative in which rates would be negotiated between providers and federal health officials, similar to the way in which private insurance operates. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he would include a similar provision in the Senate bill, though with an "opt out" clause for states that don't want to participate.

A four page summary is here. The full text is here. The top 14 provisions that take effect immediately are here. The top ten changes from the current system are here. The implementation timeline is here. The benefits to seniors and the disabled are here. [More...]

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Senate Finance Committee Votes on Health Care Amendments

There was more action today in the Senate Finance Committee on health care. And Sen. Harry Reid addressed the public option:

"I favor a public option. We're going to do our very best to have a public option. But remember, a public option is a relative term," Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday.

Insurance companies aren't waiting for the outcome to announce changes. [More...]

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Late Night: Wasted Time

Well, did we get anywhere spending the entire summer blogging about health care? Or was it wasted time? Should we have stuck to the crime reform issues that have made even less progress since Obama took office?

Your thoughts? I'll be in court early in the morning so I'm posting this now. It's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Congressional Reaction to Obama's Health Care Speech

Here's my congressperson, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), agreeing with President Obama that doing nothing is not an option, but:

I agree with the President that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. The best way to achieve this is by offering a strong public option that will not only bring down rising costs, but will also ensure competition and transparency among private companies within the insurance Exchange. No one will be forced into the public option, but they will have that choice as an affordable alternative.”

(Received by e-mail, no link yet.)How is your Congressperson responding?

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Post-Health Care Speech Thread

What did you think of President Obama's speech (text here)?

First, let me say, he was charismatic, forceful and presidential. The speech had some great lines and he delivered them perfectly.

Now, on to substance. Here's my shorter version:
  • Mandates, everyone will have to buy insurance.
    That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements.
  • No more promises your current health insurance plan will still be available or offered.
  • A public option only for those currently without insurance, expected to apply to less than 5% of Americans: [More...]

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Excerpts From Obama's Speech Tonight

Just received these excerpts of President Obama's speech tonight on health care from the White House. The speech is at 8pm ET. If you are not by a TV, the White House is streaming it live here.

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.

[More...]

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Here Comes The Prof

One of my most frequent criticisms of President Obama has been his style of communicating. He talks in his own world of ideas. Often, I don't understand him or his message. He focuses too much on the "why" and not enough on the "how."

Tonight Obama needs to be concrete. But, apparently, we're going to get the philosophical law professor.

....[H]is speech tonight will "make clear" that he sees [the public option] as "a means to an end, not an end in and of itself," a senior administration official told reporters this afternoon.

Previewing Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, the senior official -- who the White House insisted remain anonymous -- said the talk was an attempt to shift the focus of the national debate about healthcare back to the goals behind reforms and the concrete improvements reform legislation should bring. People have been "very focused on the trees, and not the forest," the official said. "Tonight's the night when he can describe the forest."

I want a mechanic, who can look under the hood and tell me how to fix what's wrong with my car so I can safely get from point A to point B. Not someone who tells me Detroit needs to build better cars. We all know what the problem is with health care. It's time for the cure.

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Deciphering Obama's Latest on the Public Option

President Obama has promised Americans clarity in his speech tonight on health care. I hope he does better than he did on Good Morning America today. What did he say? No one knows for sure. Even the journalists can't agree on what he said. Check out the different versions in the Washington Post and LA Times. (Clue: It all depends on the meaning of "it.")

According the the Washington Post, Obama will argue strongly for a public option. But if the final health care bill (not the public option per se) adds one one dime to the deficit, he won't sign the bill.

He said there were "principles that, if they're not embodied in the bill, I will not sign it," but he ducked a question on whether those include the public option. Instead, he cited as an example, "if it's adding one dime to the deficit, if it's not fully paid for, then I will not be supportive."

According to the LA Times, he said the public option is a good idea but if it (the public option) passes and adds one dime to the deficit, he won't sign the bill. [More..]

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Baucus Compromise: Fines for Uninsured, Higher Rates for Those Over 60 and Smokers

More details about the Baucus compromise for health care reform:

But the Baucus plan also includes the fines that Obama has rejected....The Baucus plan would require insurers to take all applicants, regardless of age or health. But smokers could be charged higher premiums. And 60-year-olds could be charged five times as much for a policy as 20-year-olds. (my emphasis)

So a 60 year old and a smoker who can't afford premiums gets fined for not having insurance? But the 25 year old, whose premiums are 5 times less than the 60 year old, will get help with catastrophic insurance?

Mr. Baucus’s proposal would offer low-cost catastrophic insurance as an option for people 25 and younger. Policy experts say many people in this age group cannot afford comprehensive coverage or see no need for it.

And the public option? The AP says it's sinking fast: [More...]

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The Health Care Compromise: Worse Than No Bill At All?

It's pretty obvious President Obama is going to push a compromise bill. The latest reports on the details of the compromise bill make little sense to me. I'm waffling on whether to support it at all. Here's the latest:

...remarks by the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, on the flight to Cincinnati reflected an effort by the White House to play down the importance of a public option to the larger overhaul. Mr. Gibbs said a public option would not affect most Americans — up to 180 million — because they already have insurance through employers. (my emphasis.)

So then why do we need this? [More...]

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A Helpful , Glossry of Health Care Terms

Thanks to the LA Times for publishing this glossary of health care terms, including "single-payer system", "public option", coops, mandates, universal health care, the "gang of six" and more. It's short and you don't need a Ph.D. to understand it.

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Obama's Labor Day Speech to AFL-CIO

President Barack Obama today spoke about health care to the AFL-CIO in Ohio:

In Monday's speech, at the AFL-CIO's annual Labor Day picnic at Ohio's Coney Island amusement park, the president drew wild applause when he spoke of his support for a government-run insurance plan, one of the most contentious health reform issues.

"I see reform where Americans and small businesses that are shut out of health insurance today will be able to purchase coverage at a price they can afford," he said. "Where they'll be able to shop and compare in a new health insurance exchange. And I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs."

But, what does that mean? [More...]

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