Health care now, reconciliation later
A lot of e-mailers have asked whether Congress could pass health care now and then come back in a year and pass the public option, or Medicare buy-in, through reconciliation. The answer is yes, they absolutely can. They'd need to plan for it in the budget, as reconciliation instructions have to be passed at the beginning of the year. But there's nothing stopping them from doing that.
The question, in fact, is not "can they," but "will they?" And that depends, I guess, on a couple of things. First, the amount of sustained attention activists give to the issue. Second, how the issue plays in the 2010 midterms. If health care feels like a liability to Democrats, they'll probably edge away from it for a few years. But if they run on it as an accomplishment and slam Republicans for doing the bidding of the private insurance industry and killing the public option, they may well come back to it. Third, the actual implementation of the bill. If people are happy with the private choices and costs are relatively controlled, there will be much rejoicing in the land, and the bill will carry on. But if the private insurers don't offer good choices, and costs are not controlled, then Democrats will need something to rebut Republican criticisms, and that something may be the public option.
December 15, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
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