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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nuclear Healthcare

In a stealth move on Thursday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee opted to pull the trigger to include a “Nuclear Option” making it easier to pass healthcare legislation currently being constructed (out of smoke and mirrors) in the House and Senate. Better known as reconciliation, it will allow the Senate to pass a bill with just a simple majority of 51, rather than the standard 60 votes.

Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) is trying to pass off the change as strictly procedural, but it is a clear threat to anyone paying attention: some form of healthcare legislation will be on the Presidents’ desk this year. No matter what it takes.

Rangel waves off objections to this move, indicating reconciliation would only be used if Republicans engage in "partisan tactics to stall this important health reform bill." I have no doubt that by "partisan tactics" Charlie means anything short of what the Democrats want. In addition, with a head-nod from the House that there will be a public option in the final legislation, a $6.7 billion annual fee on insurerers and a possible 40% tax on “Cadillac” plans by 2020, the over-reach of government becomes clear. This is not reform.

Sadly, public distaste for this monstrosity has remained largely unchancged for months. Even with the poor polling numbers, some are determined they know better. Unfortunately, not a surprise: many representatives have little desire or interest in addressing what the public really wants. It’s odd that the “reform” currently proposed is good for everyone, yet they may have to resort to underhanded tactics and force to get it passed.

Like most everything else on the Hill, it doesn't appear this move is well thought out, even for those who support healthcare legislation. In order to use reconciliation everything has to be deficit-neutral and must produce $1billion in deficit reduction over six years. Given the numbers that keep coming out from every report done, meeting both of these requirements seems unlikely. In their haste to ram-rod thru a bill, any bill, folks are going to end up with a healthcare plan that isn't reform, doesn't cover all of the uninsured and guts Medicare and Medicaid. We'll still have higher taxes and a deficit burden that is unmanageable. Then there will sit our legislature-proud they got something done to stem the "crisis" of healthcare reform, unconcerned with the devastation left in it’s wake.

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