Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Secret Negotiations = Even Crappier Bill

Harry: Just you shut up and vote for this, or else.
Nancy: The time for bribery is over, you tell him Harry.
Harry: What? I've got to get re-elected too!

Even Daily Kos is slamming the process being used to merge/reconcile/grind into sausage the House and Senate versions of the health care bills. C-SPAN has offered to televise the proceedings, but the most open, transparent, and ethical Congress in history is declining, so far. We can be assured that even more vote buying, better than the Louisiana purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback, will be in store during the secretive negotiations.

Meanwhile I think the best shot at killing the bill is actually from the left. Right now, "progressive" House Democrats are very unhappy with the bill and want significant changes. Since most of these desired changes are deal breakers in the Senate, it remains to be seen if the following objections, unlikely to be met will make this too bitter a pill to swallow for House progressives. From Kos again, complaints about hte senate version:
  1. Weaker employer mandate
  1. Most regulations won’t apply to the large group market
  1. Lower minimum benefit requirements
  1. Large age rating
  1. Multiple state-based exchanges versus one national exchange
  1. Lack of a public option
  1. Later start date
  1. Does not repeal health insurance anti-trust exemption
  1. Smaller Medicaid expansion
  1. Does not increase payments to Medicaid primary care providers
Without going into an exhaustive analysis, I think each objection is present because it was needed to buy some votes in the Senate version. The later start date helps with CBO deficit projections for example.

I think it will be helpful if the Republicans can maintain unity, because it will also show that the Democrats were willing to pass major social legislation without even the thinnest patina of bipartisanship. About the only thing I take comfort from is how angry some on the left are over this bill. But to paraphrase a recent Reason article, just because something is universally hated by conservatives and liberals, that doesn't make it good.

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