Health Care Notes
Just a few things I saw today:
• Orrin Hatch will no longer participate in the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan discussions on health care reform. I'm surprised he hung in as long as he did. If Ted Kennedy came to him and asked to vote for cloture, I think it'd be 50/50.
• Olympia Snowe has become queen of the weasel words. In her district she had a statement read supporting a public option;
But back in Washington, she adds an extra line that wasn't read that turns it into a trigger. Now THAT'S weaselly.
• In the Nancy Pelosi interview I noted before, she has some interesting comments on MedPAC reform:
MedPAC has been an idea out there for awhile. There have been some concerns about it among many of us because it's a big transfer of authority to the executive branch. I myself could have argued the issue both ways. Do I want my members figuring out how much oxygen people need or do we want to pass it on? But how we pass it on was important. Does Congress participate in appointing membership? Do we establish criteria to make sure we bend the curve in a way that protects people?
Steny [Hoyer] and Mr. Waxman and Mr. Dingell and, I think, Mr. Rangel were among those who did not fondly receive this proposal at first. It became more of an issue when we were seeing what CBO was going to score. When we found out they could score that, we thought okay, with the proper criteria, this is something we could probably live with.
They mention the Defense Base Closure and Reauthorization Commission. But leadership has appointments to BRAC. We want to see representation, not some ex officio group we have no say over.
That's probably a fair compromise. And it's vital to get the kid of cost savings many seek.
• Michael Steele actually doesn't know what kind of health insurance he has. This is the leader of the Republican Party. And the RNC doesn't have a choice of plans, either. Some free market.
• John Kerry's proposal in the Finance Committee is pretty interesting:
Orszag also said the White House is open to a proposal by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a Finance Committee member, to tax insurers for very generous health policies. The idea is a variation on a provision that Baucus, Grassley and others on the committee had pushed: to tax beneficiaries who receive generous policies through their employers.
Obama staunchly opposed taxing beneficiaries as a candidate, and on Monday he threatened to veto a bill that targets individuals. But Orszag said that the White House is open to the Kerry alternative, noting that a fee on high-value policies would "create an incentive for companies to create more efficient plans."
A senior House leadership aide said Democratic lawmakers there are keenly interested in the Kerry provision, along with other revenue measures with consensus support in the Finance Committee, to replace the wealth surtax that Baucus and others have already declared dead on arrival. "Our guys want to see some movement there," the aide said. "They're loath to vote on a tax increase if it is not going anywhere in the Senate."
It's a shame that nobody's willing to say that America is worth paying for. But I'm with Digby. As long as we're stuck in this paradigm, with the old dialogue about taxes, you might as well try to accomplish the same goal - reducing incentives for "Cadillac" health care plans - as limiting the employer deduction through a tax on the insurers. In the end it's the same deal.
• It's sad that the White House won't release the documents of which health industry stakeholders they've met with. It reverses the expressions of transparency he vowed in the campaign and continues to vow. CREW is suing and I hope they win - secret government should not become precedent.