Political Diagnosis: Budget Showdown on Health Care Looming; Doors to Office on Health Reform Now Officially Open; Gearing Up for Public Option Fight; Advisory Council and “Junk Religion” …
Sure, health care reform is our top priority, but don’t you also want to know about the first pup? Of course you do. Read all about Bo in the Washington Post.
The First Showdown on Health Care Reform: The New York Times, in an editorial, states that the Democrats might be right to use the budget reconciliation process (more) to pass health care reform. The process would enable the Senate to pass a health care bill with just 51 votes rather than the 60 normally required.
“There are reasons to be wary about resorting to the expedited process [...] But it is a weapon that the Democrats would be foolish to give up without evidence that Republicans will truly cooperate in fashioning meaningful reform. Not one Republican in the House or the Senate voted for the budget resolutions, and only three supported the stimulus bill.”
Office of Health Reform Officially Open: President Obama made official the new White House Office of Health Reform, overseen by Nancy-Ann DeParle.
“As outlined in the order, there’s plenty of work for the new — and rather small — team to do,” writes Ceci Connolly at the Washington Post (scroll down for the executive order). “Among the responsibilities listed in the document: coordinating with all relevant executive branch agencies, reaching out to state and local officials, working with Congress to enact health reform legislation and overseeing implementation of any eventual policy changes.”
Political Groups Gear up For Public Option Fight: The most controversial health care reform issue is whether a public option — a Medicare-style health insurance plan that Americans can buy into instead of choosing private insurance — will be available.
“Lawmakers and their staffs are currently hammering out the details of reform legislation that is expected to go to the floor in June. But interest groups on the right and left have already begun a fierce ideological battle, with each side trying to shape the public’s perception of a public insurance plan,” writes Alexandra Marks in the Christian Science Monitor.
Meanwhile, a new study by the Lewin Group, “The Cost and Coverage Impacts of a Public Plan: Alternative Design Options,” found that if the government plan were open to all employers and individuals, and if it paid doctors and hospitals the same as Medicare, it would attract 131 million members, and enrollment in private insurance plans would plummet. But that’s not the only scenario. Read a good summary by the AP.
“Junk Religion”: The White House this week named the final members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Frances Kissling is not impressed with the make-up.
“Nineteen members of the Council represent religious organizations,” writes Kissing. “Not one of the organizations they represent has played a strong role in reforming religion; in fact they have defended themselves against internal reform. There is not a single academic theologian in the batch. Thinkers are sorely absent. The majority of the men representing religious organizations who have been named to the Council either personally or institutionally represent the most conservative religious thought on women’s nature, identity and reproductive choice.”
Here’s the original White House press release announcing the council’s responsibilities.
Plan to Approve Care for Veterans Proposed: “President Obama announced plans on Thursday to computerize the medical records of veterans into a unified system, a move that is expected to ease the now-cumbersome process that results in confusion, lost records and bureaucratic delays,” reports The New York Times. “The Veterans Affairs system has a backlog of 800,000 disability claims, which means that veterans typically wait six months for decisions on their cases.”
Waiting for an Insurance Bailout: We’ve previously mentioned that the stimulus package includes subsidies for people who were recently laid off so they can keep their health care coverage. Looks like those subsidies aren’t coming through fast enough.
“Some of us have continued ponying up large premiums on the promise that we will get refunds down the road,” writes Rick Schmitt, who was laid off last fall. “We’re now hearing that, in some cases, the discounts may not fully kick in until this summer, and even then they may not be steep enough to make insurance affordable for many of the jobless.”
Considering the way the government poured billions into the banks and insurers such as AIG that got us into this mess, the handling of the health-care subsidies smacks of a double standard for us ordinary Joes.
The biggest beneficiaries so far seem to be health-care lawyers and consultants who are busy selling advice on how the whole thing is supposed to work. It took a month for the government to come up with guidance on implementing the subsidies. Employers and the firms they hire to manage benefits now face the time-consuming job of identifying people who might be eligible.
With health-care reform high on the agenda of the Obama administration, the situation offers a glimpse of the difficulties in pushing through any changes in the nation’s health-care system. Given the thousands of different plans, experts say delays are inevitable under even the best of circumstances.
* National Women’s Law Center: Members of Congress are in their home districts for recess — and this is an important opportunity to make sure they hear the health care reform message at home. Our partners at Health Care for America Now are holding events with lawmakers across the country to make sure they know that we need real health care reform. Search here for an event near you. Learn more about health care reform that meets the needs of women and their families.
* The Big Push for Midwives, which advocates for certified professional midwives, is also promoting meetings with members of Congress next week. If you want to make sure health reform includes a maternity care system that is safer and less-costly, it’s time to get pushy. Learn more.