Saturday, September 12, 2009

Robert Reich: The Final Sprint for Health Care Has Now Begun, and Where the White House is Placing Its Bets

Obama's Wednesday night speech reassured the Democratic base that the President is deeply committed to getting universal coverage. But the speech also made clear that the White House has decided to side with the Senate Finance Committee and against the Democratic base on the details. The President was careful to note that a public option is only a means to an end and he remained open to other ideas (read: Conrad's cooperatives or Snowe's trigger). The speech included nothing about Medicare bargaining leverage, thereby letting the drug deal stand. The President clearly sided with Senate Finance on the funding mechanism of a tax or fee on high-end insurance rather than a surtax on the wealthy. And his promise to limit the costs of universal coverage to $900 billion put the President directly in league with the Senate Finance Committee rather than than the House, whose bill is projected to cost more than $1 trillion.

The Dem leadership got the message. Yesterday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that while he favored a strong public option, he could be satisfied with establishment of nonprofit cooperatives. And Nancy Pelosi, who as recently as two weeks ago said the House would not support a bill that didn't include a public option, passed up a chance to say it was a nonnegotiable demand. When pressed, she said that as long as legislation makes quality health care more accessible and affordable, "we will go forward with that bill."

But, again, the race has just begun. Your input is still important -- in fact, more important now than before.

Read it all here.

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