New negotiations have begun as lawmakers work to create one bill in the Senate.
Brian Beutler of TMP DC reports: “what went on behind closed doors will be the focus of a Democratic caucus meeting today, where health care leaders will brief their colleagues on the early stages of negotiations as they merge two competing pieces of health care legislation.”
The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, referring to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus as “more Mr. Magoo than Machiavelli” notes: “I’ve been pretty hard on Max Baucus for a while, especially as he spent months and months negotiating fruitlessly while Democratic political capital rotted away. But it’s worth pointing out that his plan, assuming he had one, worked perfectly.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein agrees, but points out where Baucus was truly successful was in keeping conservative Democrats from defecting:
If you imagine that Max Baucus was given responsibility for keeping conservative Senate Democrats committed to health-care reform (and that’s how his role was often described at the beginning, with Kennedy and then Dodd playing the same role for liberals), it appears he has succeeded. Indeed, if Baucus’s schedule partly led to the long month of August, you also have to give him credit for not losing a single Democrat in its aftermath, and for having the savvy to use the release of his bill and CBO score to change the media’s narrative and refocus the conversation on the advancing legislative process.
But not all reviews are so rose-colored. James Capretta of the New Atlantis argues, “the plan sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus would almost certainly lead to a death spiral in many private health insurance markets.” Capretta is concerned about adverse selection, or the idea that without a stiff mandate that everyone to purchase insurance, a disproportionate number of unhealthy and more costly individuals will sign up for a plan and affect the risk pool.
Others have concerns about the Democrat’s big picture approach to health care costs. AEI’s Stephen Parente says he’d ”find it far more credible that the administration will bend the cost curve down if a CMS administrator had been appointed nearly 9 months post inauguration (a record), and if 70 percent of other CMS posts weren’t vacant (also a record). Assuming nearly $800 billion spent on Medicare and Medicaid for an annualized 2009, each day past the president’s inauguration, $2.2 billion has been spent (with 55%+ for Medicare alone) without a leader. The civil service running such an endeavor deserve gold stars. Yet, it is inconceivable that an enterprise that is larger than any Fortune 500 firm in terms of cost outlays, let alone the revenues of No. 1 Wal-Mart and No. 2 ExxonMobil combined, is running without a chief.”
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey takes issue with comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who downplayed the savings of tort reform legislation. Morrissey writes: ”The overall savings come to at least $110 billion over that same period, perhaps as high as $135 billion, or about 0.5% of the entire cost of the industry — which may still be a small percentage, but is significant in terms of actual money spent. It would come to over $1000 per family in the first ten years.”
Bob Laszewski is not happy about the news that Congressional Dems are trying to fix a scheduled reduction in Medicare payments to physicians separate from health overhaul legislation, though the pay cut and its cost were long deemed something that a health reform bill would address. He writes that Democrats are about to try ”peeling out one of the biggest components of health care and quickly spending $245 billion to bolster physician fees over the next ten years, doing it separate from the ‘deficit neutral’ health bill, and just adding the $245 billion cost of this to the deficit!”
And last but not least, Insure Blog hosts Health Wonk Review, a biweekly compendium of health policy blogging. According to host H G Stern, there’s several new faces this week.