Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Future of the Healthcare Bill

Ezra Klein explains why the public option is dead and lays out the scenario for the healthcare reform bill.

The public option died [last night]. So, it seems, did its eager successor, the Medicare buy-in. Harry Reid buried the ideas at a somber meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus. “Could it have been better?” asked Sen. Jay Rockefeller. “Yeah. But it could’ve been so much worse if we’d just decided not to do anything because we didn’t get everything we wanted.”

The calculation, in the end, was pretty simple. The White House wants the Senate done with health-care legislation by Christmas. The argument is that big bills rarely fail in a dramatic vote. They bleed to death slowly, wasting away amid a procession of delays and procedural setbacks. The longer a health-care reform bill takes, the less likely it is to pass.

Worse, the longer health-care reform takes, the longer it is until Democrats can shift the spotlight back to jobs and the economy. The Obama administration wants to use the State of the Union as a turning point. Health-care reform would be the shining first year accomplishment, allowing the president to begin the election-year pivot to jobs and the economy and the deficit. But if health-care reform is to pass by early next year, it will have to clear the Senate before the end of this year.

At the risk of saying “I told you so,” well, I have been saying for a long time that whatever comes out of the Senate won’t look much like what went in. And there will be a lot of disappointed people — myself included — if there isn’t some form of getting as much affordable healthcare to as many people as possible. Disappointed, but not surprised.