Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky eyes stories on whether the “ping pong” strategy is working, and thinks the talks have hit some obstacles: “But now, House negotiators are suggesting that the Senate’s excise tax, state-based exchanges, poor affordability standards and preservation of insurers’ anti-trust exemption may not have enough votes to pass the House.”
The American Spectator’s Philip Klein reacts to news that collectively-bargained agreements might be exempt from the so-called ‘Cadillac tax’: “If this policy is adopted, it would mean that there could be two Americans receiving the exact same benefits, but one American may be taxed and one wouldn’t, and the only difference would be one of them being a member of a union. This is unseemly and unfair, even by the standards of Obamacare.”
Austin Frakt mulls over what the ultimate employer “responsibility” (i.e mandate) could be in the health overhaul proposals, and concludes: “I don’t like the Senate’s employer provisions relative to those of the House, but how bad is it in absolute terms? I don’t think it is that bad. The minimum benefit standard is lower than the House’s but not tremendously lower (60% vs. 70% of actuarial value). Though there are loopholes that afford employers some wiggle room, it is a lot less wiggle room than they have now.”
Heritage’s Kathryn Nix argues that the Office of Personal Management, which oversees the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program, shouldn’t take on the added responsibility of “sponsoring health plans to compete against private health plans in every state in the nation” in the Senate proposal. She says that the FEHBP’s responsibilities shouldn’t change as proposed under the Senate bill: “[it] works because OPM plays the neutral role of an umpire: federal employees choose the private plan they like from a wide variety of different plans, all of which compete against each other to attract the most enrollees. The federal government provides its employees with a defined contribution towards their health costs, and it doesn’t micromanage their choices.”
A special election in Massachusetts has some worried about losing a long-time Democratic vote in Congress: the late Edward Kennedy held the Senate seat for decades.
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein predicts that it won’t matter for the final health reform vote if Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, loses the election. According to Klein, even if she loses, it would take a while for Scott Brown, her opponent, to be confirmed and sworn in.
And Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, looking at reports that longtime Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., was heckled over the issue of health care at a recent constituent meeting in Wisconsin, says: “The town hall meeting phenomenon has not dissipated at all. Perhaps the media isn’t giving it quite as much coverage as before — and perhaps Democrats aren’t holding town-hall meetings because of the certainty of this kind of reception. But that is bigger news than whether Harry Reid retains his position as Majority Leader, at least in terms of policy and governance.”