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The Republican plan to pass 'health-care reform'?

Sam Stein is hearing some rumblings:

Health care reform advocates are concerned that passing a scaled-back version of reform legislation -- an option being considered by President Obama and Democratic Party leaders -- could end up playing into the hands of Republican electoral politics. […]

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "will have his whole caucus vote for it and make it a political win for the Republicans," one well-connected Democratic health care strategist said. "They'll say, 'This was the Republican plan from the beginning. We're glad the Democrats joined us.' And take all the credit for passing reform."

Lo and behold, on Thursday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that the Republican Party do just that, arguing that it would be ‘clever’ for the GOP to pass non-controversial reform measures with ‘huge bipartisan majorities.’ Alternately, some Democrats might welcome such a move. "Hell yeah," a Democratic congressional aide said. "We would have created a bi-partisan bill. We would have shown leadership. And we'd get credit for that."

One thing you never see any of these strategists say is that this or that approach would good because it would help more people, or bad because it will help fewer people. Oddly, you don't even see many politicians saying that. It's as if we were trying to give insurance coverage to poll numbers.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 22, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
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Next: Four reasons Democrats should pass the health-care bill -- from an opponent of the effort


the republicans can say whatever they want.
if we pass health care reform, it will be on barack obama's watch...not bill clinton's, not george bush's.....
and it will have been barack obama's will to have committed himself to it in his first year.
history will record the courage and fight for health care reform...the failures that preceded his victory.
the republicans can paint it any way they want.....
the start for health care reform, if it gets passed...was a horrific battle...and if it passes, history will record it as one of president obama's achievements.
and you bloggers will see to it, that the republican spin will not destroy the victory.
this will be a democratic victory.

Posted by: jkaren | January 22, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other."

Posted by: markgoede | January 22, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

pass health care reform.
the victory will go most deservedly to president obama,
no matter what they try to do.
he has been battered from the right and battered from the left, and betrayed by his own.
if he can get this bill passed, it is a brave and incredibly hardwon start....and he will own and deserve the victory....and it will be a beginning, and it will be his administration that got it done.
if this bill gets passed, no-one can take the glory and the effort away from president obama.
no matter how hard his detractors on the right and the left may try, and they will.
the glory will be his. and he is humble enough to let others share the limelight.
but history will record the truth of his accomplishments.

(if we get it passed, which i pray that we will.)

Posted by: jkaren | January 22, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Optics over substance. Where are the leaders that put policy over politics?

I just don't understand. Dems have already voted for HCR. Repiglicans will be merciless in their castigation of this vote. Might as will get it passed, and take credit for getting something done. There is plenty of good in the senate bill even with its serious flaws. I can't see the logic in getting blamed for a vote and then making that vote meaningless.

Posted by: srw3 | January 22, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Stein's article also gives us a little bit of hope--

"...the presumption among party insiders -- at least for now-- is that Democratic leadership will ultimately settle on passing the Senate package (with promises of additional change.)

'I think if people are talking about the piecemeal approach it's without really thinking about it in detail,' emailed one Hill aide. 'I mean, everything I've heard is it's just not doable. I predict that the dynamic will change in the next couple weeks. I think House leadership is going to start pushing -- through polls, strategists, etc -- that abandoning reform now is suicide. That we can't allow '94 to repeat and you'll see the [progressives] get on board for a strategy that passes the senate bill while saving face in other ways.'"

Posted by: cjo30080 | January 22, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I'd say these rumors have legs. In a surprisingly thoughtful post-Massachusetts conversation with several Southern evangelical relations, they all expressed how thrilled they were that the GOP had likely destroyed the Democratic plan AND IN THE SAME BREATH all agreed that the system was broken, citing their own personal horror stories, and that Congress should go back to the drawing board for more Republican input. (It helps to come from that milieu and to know how these folks think and work.)

If a pared-down plan passes with some GOP support, then you can bet your sweet bippy the American public will credit them for stepping in to clean up the Democratic disaster and, you know, actually get something done.

Again, the President bears the lion's share of the blame. He learned nothing from the stimulus vote. I give the GOP full credit for recognizing, early on, Obama's Achilles' heel: his Messianic complex. They designed an Obama-based strategy to achieve the Rovian goal of one-party domination. Obama himself is turning the Democrats into the Whigs.

Posted by: scarlota | January 22, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I'll also add that what's most dismaying about the President's apathetic post-Mass stance (or, as Krugman notes, his "passivity") is just how he's sold out the spirit and legacy of Ted Kennedy, who took a major political risk early on by giving a full-throated endorsement of Obama over Hillary Clinton. Kennedy put his entire faith in Obama that Obama would ensure that his lifelong dream of affordable, quality healthcare for all would become a reality, even penning a letter in his final days, claiming he knew Obama would be the President to sign the bill
into law, leading Americans into a Promised Land, Joshua to Kennedy's Moses.

That Obama should remain on the sidelines as reform dies is a betrayal of all that Ted Kennedy stood for and relentlessly fought for throughout his singular career. I expect this from Kennedy's Republican "friends," like Orrin Hatch, but not from a Democratic President who owed the great Senator so much.

Posted by: scarlota | January 22, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein refers to the lies that derailed the healthcare bill. I am a senior who will shortly become a Medicare recipient. I may well be misinformed. I may well be the victim of lies. But the Democrats who so freely toss about the term "lie" have failed to furnish people like me with the "truth".

They have represented that they will reduce Medicare costs by $500 billion without reducing Medicare benefits. They have represented that Seniors will be better served by this proposed legislation, trotting out provisions to close the drug benefit "donut hole". But they have utterly failed to explain where the savings will come from, what benefits will be like under the new plan and how patients will be able to access the doctors who have made it clear that they will refuse to accept Medicare patients in the future.

Perhaps if the Democrats would provide real information (you know, the truth) about what the program WILL be instead of vague "trust us" representations, the "lies" which are poisoning their legislation would disappear.

I would be much more inclined to accept Mr. Klein's idiotic conclusions if Mr. Klein could kindly do what legislators have been utterly unwilling to do -- describe in detail the before and after differences which will result for people like me from this legislation. In the absence of such explanations I will continue to assume that the Democrats' unwillingness to provide truthful and important details constitutes de facto prevarication.

Posted by: mrdon | January 21, 2010 7:18 PM



Answer these questions and you may get a few more people on board.........

This is the problem- no answers to specific questions. 'Trust us' is not doing it.

Posted by: jeffreid1 | January 22, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"Answer these questions and you may get a few more people on board.........

This is the problem- no answers to specific questions. 'Trust us' is not doing it."

You mean like:

Which I found by clicking on the link for Medicare at the right of Ezra's page. Maybe it doesn't answer all your questions, but people can at least spend twenty seconds looking and then complain.

Posted by: y2josh_us | January 22, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

mrdon most of the savings will come from ending medicare advantage, using evidence based measures for deciding what to pay for, and "eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse (admittedly this leg may not pan out)." You can disagree with what they propose to do but it is not true that they didn't say where the savings would come from. After all the savings were scored by the CBO.

Posted by: srw3 | January 22, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats could have easily countered the Medicare "cuts" problem by explaining the bill would eliminate the favoritism that resulted in Medicare paying for vision and healthcare clubs for some while the majority had to buy extra MediGap coverage for to get the same benefits.

It's just one of many illustrations of how the Democrats were almost exclusively focused on raising money to expand something that most rational people agree doesn't work. They never even bothered to construct a narrative that made sense to those who recognize that the US government doesn't get a good enough return on the money its already spending.

And saying that you're going to attack waste and fraud doesn't count as a reason to vote for a new program: that's something the existing program should be doing anyway.

Posted by: Athena_news | January 22, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

if we pass it (and its good) who really gives a crap whose watch its on who it benefits politically. I think Americans have had it up to here with politicians and who is going to gain from this or lose from this.

Also in the end it was always foolish to try to shove through reform that all throughout the process 45-50% of Americans didn't want. That's a pretty bad starting point when you're coming into an election year knowing you can't get 45-50% of the people to vote for you and leaves you no margin for error.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 22, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

mrdon wrote, "[Democrats] have utterly failed to explain where the savings will come from, what benefits will be like under the new plan..."

Dems, health care experts, and various media reports have REPEATEDLY explained where the savings will come from and what the benefits will be under the new plan.

It doesn't make sense to wallow in one's ignorance, and then blame such ignorance on the Dems.

Here's a resource that mrdon might consider:

Posted by: cjo30080 | January 22, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse


no one was going to believe that $120 billion was going to gym memberships and vision coverage. Dems tried to say it was insurance company excesses (which much of it was) but in the end medicare receipients didn't end up caring where it came from, they just saw their benefits worsening and they also saw the CBO numbers that showed millions fleeing Medicare Advantage programs because of cost increases due to the end of the subsidies. Its like starting this reform the way Dems wanted it and then in 2018 telling people that they were dropping the subsidies by 25%. Those on subsidies would justfiably be very upset.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 22, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I really don't think mrdon is too open to rational explanations. He'll be more likely to listen to "idiotic conclusions" if we just explain things more clearly to him? Uh-huh.

Posted by: Chris_O | January 22, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"One thing you never see any of these strategists say is that this or that approach would good because it would help more people, or bad because it will help fewer people."

I've heard that, and on both sides, actually. But I certainly here the above sort of comment more often. However, I don't think it should surprise anyone that the focus of politicians is politics. Helping people is often a side effect. And, frankly, that's fine with me. Rarely is there more damage done to you than by people who sincerely want to help you. Usually with tough, regulatory, high-tax love.

As far as lying goes, I think either everybody must lie, or everybody must be telling some version of the truth. The Republicans tell me the Democrats lie. The Democrats tell me Republicans lie. Maybe they should both start flinging their poop at one another. Seems about as useful, and about as highly evolved.

The Republicans lied about healthcare reform, the Democrats lied about Social Security Reform, and so on and so forth. Lies or not, the fault ultimately belongs with the politicians who could not communicate the "truth" of the issue. If you can't explain why you want to change the status quo--and explain it really well, in the midst of maelstrom of opposition--you don't get to change the status quo. That's just how it works.

And, of course, one could argue the Democrats are lying about healthcare reform and the Republicans were lying about Social Security Reform. There are, after all, lies, damn lies, and projections. Projected benefits and savings may seem almost certain, but until you're actually there, all the promises are just that: promises. Suggesting End of Life Counseling is in one bill, when in fact it is not but was rather in another bill, may be lying, or it may be confusion. But painting a negative picture of what the results of a particular piece of legislation will be is not lying--it's a prediction. Just as painting a positive picture about what the results were be. And history shows that individuals, and people collectively, way overestimate their predictive powers. They may truly believe their prognosis, down to their bones, but no matter how smart they are they still have a statistical 50% chance of being entirely wrong.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 22, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Pffft, Democrats should be so lucky. Presidents get credit when they pass their big-ticket item, not the opposition. Congressional Democrats didn't get credit for Reagan's tax cuts or the Iraq War resolution (of course, in the latter case, they avoided the BLAME, too, but that's just really two sides of the same coin).

Really, such a move would only serve to burnish Obama's bipartisan cred, depress the TeaBagger base, give Obama a victory lap, take a big issue for midterms off the table, and let a whole host of endangered conservaDems off the hook. It'd be political malpractice, and I doubt Republicans would really do it.

But policy wise, since they really don't want something even as moderate as the Senate Bill, it makes perfect sense for them to act like they would.

Posted by: colby1983 | January 22, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Wrong wrong wrong! Everything just changed!

CALIFORNIA IS TRYING TO GET SINGLE-PAYER. The California Senate Appropriations Committee just approved Thursday (yesterday) a proposal to set-up a single payer system in California. It goes to the full California Senate next week.

Google "California single-payer plan advances"

This immediately changes everything in the healthcare debate! Think!! California is the seventh biggest economy in the world and single-payer will cut into private insurers' profits in a very big way. Private health insurers are going to have to change tactics in Washington immediately, to prevent this from happening. They are going to have to go back and try to get a deal from the U.S. House.

This changes what progressives should do next. First, support the California bill.

Next, hold it up as a states' rights model and don't let the U.S. Congress pass any provision that would prevent a single payer in California or any other state.

This could not only get us all to a single-payer, and sooner rather than later. And it not only puts the corporate moderate Dems on notice.

It is also going to drive a wedge between the teapartiers and the corporate moderates in the Republican Party. What is Scott Brown going to say -- that he supported Massachusetts' healthcare reform but is against what California is doing because it goes further than the U.S. Congress' bill?!

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | January 22, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

*Really, such a move would only serve to burnish Obama's bipartisan cred, depress the TeaBagger base, give Obama a victory lap, take a big issue for midterms off the table, and let a whole host of endangered conservaDems off the hook.*

I think that Republicans have more confidence in their ability to drive the narrative to their advantage. And they're right about that. I still don't think they'll do it, though.

Posted by: constans | January 22, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

"no one was going to believe that $120 billion was going to gym memberships and vision coverage. " -visionbrkr

The first thing I did when I read about the Medicare Advantage cuts was go to various web sites and see what Medicare Advantage subscribers were getting in my area: $0 - $5 copays, vision and drug benefits more generous than anything I, an individual subscriber can get, and incredibly low hospital cost sharing. In most cases, the subscribers pay no additional premium at all! Then I went to CMS and looked up what Medicare is paying HMOs in my area: $849/month ("Cadillac" rates BTW).

If the Medicare Advantage cuts had been framed with figures like that to begin with, non-Seniors would have been behind the change and many would have their parents to stop being so greedy. As it stands, the Democrats still don't have coherent explanations to convince anyone that MA cuts are worth the battle.

And how did the Democrats resolve it? They agreed to leave MA in place for some areas and cut it in others. That was yet another deal that reeked of inequality.

I understand how people might be understandably bothered by having their benefits cut, but it could be done in an orderly way to let MediGap programs pick up the slack. You don't give Florida, NY, and California a pass just because the insurance companies there gamed the system.

Posted by: Athena_news | January 22, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

@Lee_A_Arnold: Keep dreaming. Schwarzenegger has twice vetoed similar legislation, and he said yesterday that he'll veto it again.

That single payer bill won't be enacted and will have absolutely no effect on the federal (or state) reform efforts. But you can keep on dreaming.

Posted by: Policywonky | January 22, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

its amazing to me. President Obama in his speech today said that we had to "bail out" the auto industry to save jobs because the economy was teetering, etc . . .etc. . .

Now our friends like Lee are proposing the single payer model. Any guess how many jobs that would cost? If a single payer model is as efficent as they want us to believe I'm thinking that every doctors office can lay off a couple staff members right? With about 9 million workers in that area that's gotta be 100,000-200,000 right? Then every insurance company will be closing up shop right? There's millions right there from the claims examiners, secretaries, sales reps, lawyers that tell them how to deny every claim, CEO's, etc.

So how is that going to save money and help the economy? Because the government is so efficent right?

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 22, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

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