As promised, President Obama has unveiled his own health-insurance reform proposal three days before Thursday’s scheduled summit with members of Congress, allowing all sides time to study the package and propose their own improvements.
But among Republicans leaders, the initial reaction was negative. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, said that Mr. Obama had “crippled the credibility” of Thursday’s meeting by proposing “the same massive government takeover of health care.”
… The bill is intended to achieve Mr. Obama’s broad goals of expanding coverage to the uninsured while driving down health premiums and imposing what the White House calls “common sense rules of the road” for insurers, including ending the unpopular practice of discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. It would offer more money to help cash-strapped states pay for Medicaid over a four-year period, and, in a nod to concerns among the elderly, end the unpopular “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug program.
The White House projects that the bill would extend coverage to 31 million people who are currently uninsured, at a cost over 10 years of $950 billion — more than the $871 billion the Senate would have spent, but less than the $1.05 trillion for the version passed by the House. The administration estimates that its plan would reduce the federal deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years — and about $1 trillion over the second decade — by cutting spending and reining in waste and fraud.
Democrats also seem ready to try to push the measure through the Senate through the ironically named reconciliation process, a step that would ensure some high political drama in the weeks to come.
Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.
Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.
“I’ve had many conversations this week with the president, his chief of staff, and Speaker Pelosi,” Reid said during an appearance Friday evening on “Face to Face with Jon Ralston” in Nevada. “And we’re really trying to move forward on this.”
“We’ll do a relatively small bill to take care of what we’ve already done,” Reid said, affirming that Democrats would use the reconciliation process. “We’re going to have that done in the next 60 days.”
The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their filibuter-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.