“I won’t try to psychoanalyze the “naysayers,” I’d just urge them to take a good hard look in the mirror.”
By PAUL KRUGMANPast efforts to give Americans what citizens of every other advanced nation already have — guaranteed access to essential care — have ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, usually dying in committee without ever making it to a vote.
O.K., folks, this is it. It’s the defining moment for health care reform.
But this time, broadly similar health-care bills have made it through multiple committees in both houses of Congress. And on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, unveiled the legislation that she will send to the House floor, where it will almost surely pass. It’s not a perfect bill, by a long shot, but it’s a much stronger bill than almost anyone expected to emerge even a few weeks ago. And it would lead to near-universal coverage.
As a result, everyone in the political class — by which I mean politicians, people in the news media, and so on, basically whoever is in a position to influence the final stage of this legislative marathon — now has to make a choice. The seemingly impossible dream of fundamental health reform is just a few steps away from becoming reality, and each player has to decide whether he or she is going to help it across the finish line or stand in its way.
For conservatives, of course, it’s an easy decision: They don’t want Americans to have universal coverage, and they don’t want President Obama to succeed.
For progressives, it’s a slightly more difficult decision: They want universal care, and they want the president to succeed — but the proposed legislation falls far short of their ideal. There are still some reform advocates who won’t accept anything short of a full transition to Medicare for all as opposed to a hybrid, compromise system that relies heavily on private insurers. And even those who have reconciled themselves to the political realities are disappointed that the bill doesn’t include a “strong” public option, with payment rates linked to those set by Medicare.
But the bill does include a “medium-strength” public option, in which the public plan would negotiate payment rates — defying the predictions of pundits who have repeatedly declared any kind of public-option plan dead. It also includes more generous subsidies than expected, making it easier for lower-income families to afford coverage. And according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, almost everyone — 96 percent of legal residents too young to receive Medicare — would get health insurance.
So should progressives get behind this plan? Yes. And they probably will.
The people who really have to make up their minds, then, are those in between, the self-proclaimed centrists.
Path clears for House to OK compromise health bill
They may not like it, but many House liberals look ready to accept a compromise health care bill, putting Democratic leaders well on the way to delivering on President Barack Obama’s call for overhaul.
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