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Live Blog: Senate Debate on Health Care Bill

The Senate is debating the health care bill this weekend–specifically they are considering the numerous amendments that have been proposed by Senators. Al Franken is acting as President right now. You can watch the debate on C-Span 2 or you can get the live stream here.

Bloomberg: President Obama plans to head to the Senate today to “rally the troops.”

At TNR, Jacob Hacker, a political science professor at Yale, has an opinion piece:You Call This a Compromise?

As the Senate debates the health care bill put together by Majority Leader Reid, the scramble is on to come up with a new compromise regarding the public option–the public health insurance plan modeled after Medicare that will be offered within the new health insurance exchange to Americans who lack workplace health insurance (and to workers in small firms that decide to buy coverage through the exchange).

The problem is that the current proposals aren’t “compromises” and don’t represent “middle ground.”

They represent abandonment of the public plan idea altogether. One proposal that is being floated, for example, is the chartering of a national nonprofit plan, similar to the “cooperatives” that Senator Kent Conrad has advocated. But the whole point of the public plan is to create a plan that is up and running quickly and constructed on the existing infrastructure of Medicare so that it can create competitive pressure for insurers and serve as a backup for consumers on day one. In 35 states, after all, the largest private insurer enrolls more than half of privately insured patients. Many of these plans are nonprofits already–the problem is that they don’t face a credible alternative.

Another, even stranger idea is to offer the nonprofit plans available in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) within the exchange. Since the FEHBP is itself a form of exchange, this amounts to offer a new set of private plans within a new set of private plans. How is that going to provide real pressure on private insurers in a consolidated insurance market in which nonprofit plans already have a large presence (and often act little differently from for-profit plans)?

In short, the new compromise proposals are anything but. They represent calls for advocates of the public plan to eat their crumbs and be happy.

If you have been following the debate so far, please share your reactions. And join us in discussing what’s happening this afternoon.