The same health insurance that members of Congress get
That used to be one of the slogans for health-care reform: Every American should have the same insurance choices that members of Congress have. This obscured, to some degree, that members of Congress don't have very interesting choices: Most of them are covered by BlueCross BlueShield. But it sounded good.
In practice, however, it was hard to achieve, as the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program wasn't set up to insure all Americans. But as Joe Klein points out, Harry Reid is doing the slogan one better: Every member of Congress will now have the same choices ordinary Americans have:
My favorite provision requires that all members of Congress give up their federally-funded health care benefits and join the health care exchanges that will be set up by this bill. This is brilliant politics, addressing the tide of populist anger and fears of incipient socialism. But it also makes an important substantive point. The future of health care reform in this country will depend on how effectively the exchanges -- health insurance super-stores -- are working. If members of Congress have to participate in this system, you can bet they'll insist on an array of choices, similar to the system they currently use, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.
The one caveat to this is that every American doesn't have these choices. Only those few Americans eligible for the exchanges have these choices. So there's more work to be done. But this is good politics and, not incidentally, good policy. Given that the exchanges will largely serve limited to low-income Americans during the first 10 years, this at least assures them one powerful constituency.
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