Obama Health Care plan
Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to create the first national health care plan in the US, a renewed after his election. He says that Single Payer would be the best if we were starting from scratch, but is not practical. Instead, he proposes a Public Option. When Congress recessed at the beginning of August, 2009, there were several different House and Senate health care bills from different Committees, and several other proposals from individual Senators and Representatives.
- H.R. 3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, as introduced by the House Tri-Committee Group on July 14. Congressonal Budget Office analysis
- The Affordable Health Choices Act (No bill number yet.) Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Sen. Edward Kennedy, MA, Chairman.
- Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, MT, Chairman. No bill yet.
Votes in Congress
No floor votes on any Health Care bill had been scheduled before Congress went into recess in August. It is expected that votes will occur in September or October.
The House of Representatives has a clear Democratic majority in favor of the Public Option. So strong is this sentiment that more than 60 Representatives have signed a public letter (PDF) by Rep. Sherrod Brown, OH, not to vote for any bill lacking a robust Public Option. (This is how the watered-down Clinton health plan was killed in 1994.)
The Senate has a tenuous 60-seat coalition of Democrats, one Independent (Joe Lieberman, CT), and one Social Democrat (Bernie Sanders, VT), including at least 15 conservative Blue Dog Democrats. It is argued whether there are the 60 votes required for cloture to end debate and get to a vote on any health care bill, much less a bill with a strong Public Option. Various political strategies and parliamentary maneuvers are under consideration or in play on the part of various participants in both Houses of Congress, the White House, and others involved in the public discussion. Some seek to advance the debate on the issues, some seek to derail the entire process, and most (as usual) speak in nearly complete and frequently willful ignorance or denial of essential facts.
Senator Robert Byrd, WV, is ill, but has been able to appear in the Senate for critical votes. Senator Ted Kennedy, MA, has recently been tool ill to attend any sessions, and has asked for a change in Massachusetts law to provide a speedy [http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/08/20/kennedy_looking_ahead_urges_a_quick_filling_of_senate_seat/ replacement if he dies.
If cloture is not possible, an alternative is to use the reconciliation process between House and Senate bills to add features to a bill which would then require only 50 votes for final passage. Some parts of a robust Public Option cannot be added in this way under Senate rules.
If all else fails, some would like to write a strong bill and let the Republicans vote it down, in order to make it a campaign issue in 2010. The Blue Dogs complicate this strategy.
Republicans oppose any form of Public Option, which would create competition for private insurance companies. They have also said that they will oppose a health-care cooperative measure, which they regard as the same as the Public Option
The entire proceeding has been mired in even greater controversy than the stimulus and energy bills, including a rapid rise in spurious accusations of
- Bureaucrats getting between patients and doctors
- A government takeover of health care
- Vast increases in government spending and deficits
- Federal funding of abortions
- Free health care for illegal immigrants
- Death panels to force the elderly to die
- Socialism, Communism, Nazism