Monday, February 22, 2010

Presidemt Stamps His Imprint on 'ObamaCare'

 For the first time since the start of the health care reform debate, the president has publicly placed his imprint on the legislative package. He has proposed compromises on key elements that are different in the bills passed by the House and Senate.

The summary of what we can now finally call "ObamaCare" without the ridicule from opponents is in a pdf online. It was posted Monday by the White House, 72 hours in advance of the summit meeting Thursday between President Obama and members from both parties of Congress.

As a representative of Main Street, I urge Congress to adopt the proposals. Easy for me to say.

The ObamaCare plan is a start. It bridges the gap between essential elements of both bills.

It avoids discussion on two contentious elements. One is on the abortion funding question which in my mind is a red-herring considering the magnitude of the sweeping reforms offered in the two bills and the president's proposals.

The other is no public option to compete with the private insurers. Although most progressives favor a single-payer system modeled after Medicare, the president's proposal offers a market-based pool offering what is billed as affordable options to individuals, families, employees and small businesses.

One thing is certain. All Americans except the poorest will be mandated to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Businesses employing 50 or more workers also will be fined if  they do not offer shared health insurance costs.

Where the president really stepped his foot in is proposals stronger than the House and Senate bills over fighting fraud, abuse and other criminal acts involving the billing of Medicare, MediCaid and private insurers by doctors, contract providers and individual miscreants who game the system. Those convicted will be jailed and their names placed on a universal data base.

Deleted for good measure from the Senate bill will be Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson's deal that would have given his state free MediCaid increases forever. Instead, the president proposes more MediCaid funding paid by the federal government to all the states.

The plan would establish review boards in each state supervised by the U.S. Health and Human Resources  agency to justify private insurance premium increases and forever end the practice of denying an individual coverage because of preexisting conditions.

ObamaCare would cover an additional 31 million Americans who now cannot afford health insurance and  reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years – and about $1 trillion over the second decade – by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.

I can't vouch for the deficit savings Obama concocts because we've heard such glowing promises in the past with vastly different results.

I  am also unclear how the Senate in particular will enact such a proposal into law either by reconciliation or challenging the 60-vote filibuster rule. As I understand Senate rules, it appears what the president is proposing could be handled by reconciliation -- 50 plus one vote for passage.

If the Senate Republicans hold the line at 41 votes, which they are likely to do with their new buddy Scott Brown of Massachusetts aboard, I would force them to actually take the Senate podium and talk a blue moon.

The Republicans would be seen for what they are by the American people -- obstructionists.

Easy for me to say. Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't return my phone calls.

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