Monday, June 22, 2009

Healthcare Reform To Be Fast Tracked?

It sure sounds like it, if you listen to Senator Chuck Schumer.

Democrats may go it alone on gov't insurance plan
(6/22/09 AP via Yahoo Finance) [emphasis is mine]

"Democrats generally are standing behind their position that a health care system overhaul must include a government-sponsored plan that would be available to middle-class workers and their families.

"A key Democrat, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, said this option now seems even more of a necessity in view of unsuccessful behind-the-scenes attempts to get a deal with Republicans on nonprofit co-ops as an alternative to a public plan.

"Schumer told The Associated Press Sunday night that those efforts have proved frustrating, saying that he and his Democratic colleagues now may have to go it alone."

What does Senator Schumer mean by "go it alone"? I suspect he means using a legislative process called "reconciliation". It is a process that allows a contentious budget bill to be considered without being subject to filibuster. If this process is used, the floor debate will be restricted to 20 hours, and the bill will only need a simple majority to pass.

The co-op proposal was floated by a Democratic Senator Kent Conrad (ND) as a compromise plan.

"The public plan that most Democrats envision would be offered alongside private plans through a new kind of insurance purchasing pool called an exchange. Individuals and small businesses would be able to buy coverage through exchanges, but eventually businesses of any size might be able to join.

"Proponents say the option of a public plan in the marketplace would put a brake on costs and check the power of insurers. But Republicans, insurers and many business leaders say a government plan could drive private insurance companies out of business."

The Republicans' opposition, though, does not question the need for a reform. The response from the House Minority Whip Eric Cantor is rather lame:

""The most important thing for us to make sure is that we do increase coverage to a basic plan for more Americans and the way we're going to do that is starting with where people get most of their health care, and that's their employer," House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Monday. "We've got to be sure to make it so those employers can keep their health care costs down.""

There seems to be public support behind the health care reform, although it is doubtful that people actually know what's in it.

"Two recent news media polls have found public support for a government plan, even if many people are unsure about its implications. The most recent survey, a New York Times-CBS News poll released Sunday, found that 72 percent supported the idea, including half of those who identified themselves as Republicans."

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that "enacting the proposal would result in a net increase in federal budget deficits of about $1.0 trillion over the 2010-2019 period.When fully implemented, about 39 million individuals would obtain coverage through the new insurance exchanges. At the same time, the number of people who had coverage through an employer would decline by about 15 million (or roughly 10 percent), and coverage from other sources would fall by about 8 million, so the net decrease in the number of people uninsured would be about 16 million or 17 million."

So, it would cost about $60,000 to cover one uninsured person. A rather pricey health insurance, wouldn't you say?


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