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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.

39 Responses

  1. Last time I checked, they are voting on an amendment proposed by Blanche Lincoln that would limit how much victims of malpractice could pay for legal assistance. But the doctors and insurance co’s would have no limits.

  2. What about “Medicare for All” is too hard for them to understand? ((restrains self from banging head))

  3. From FDL: Everything You Might Not Know or Want to Know About the Current Health Care Reform Tragedy, But I Am Going to Tell You Anyway

    http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/17789

  4. Dorgan is holding up bottles of Lipitor.

  5. Grassley is an A-hole!

  6. Oh goody. Jeff Sessions.

  7. oh shit, Sessions is talking now

  8. ROFL
    Fiction and Fact with Jeff Sessions

  9. While it’s nice that FDL is now on the right side, I really wish they had been there all along instead of whipping for a slogan. It might have made a small difference.

    Fuck it. Kill this thing and start over!

  10. Why don’t they just lget it over with quickly?

  11. Here’s a handy-dandy comparison compliments of an email I received from MoveOn (I know…I know…)

    Neither of these bills is close to perfect. But we’re entering the home stretch where we risk losing a lot of what’s good in these bills and where we have a huge opportunity to strengthen the parts that need work.
    Here’s where we are:

    The House of Representatives passed their bill last month. The Senate is aiming to pass its version before Christmas.

    Overall, both pieces of legislation would do four major things:

    * Create a “Health Insurance Exchange.” The bills create a one-stop marketplace where people can choose from various insurance plans, including the public option. The details aren’t set yet, but initially the Exchange would likely be open to the self-employed, people without insurance at work, and small businesses.1 The key with the Exchange is that it brings “the bargaining power and scale that’s generally accessible only to large employers” to individuals—and with that, lower costs and better options.2

    * Provide insurance to over 30 million more people. The House bill would expand coverage to 36 million people by 2019. The Senate bill extends coverage to 31 million.3

    * Outlaw discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and gender. Insurance companies will have to stop denying coverage to people with “pre-existing conditions.” And they won’t be allowed to charge women more than men for the same coverage.4

    * Eliminate coverage limits and price-gouging. The bills differ on some details, but in general would place limits on how much people have to pay for health care beyond their premiums. They both cap out-of-pocket costs and ban insurance companies from setting limits on how much health care they’ll cover for a person each year.5

    Of course, the devil is in the details, and much in these bills still needs work.
    Here’s what still needs to be fixed:

    * Both bills leave millions uninsured. The House bill leaves 18 million without insurance in 2019; the Senate bill, 24 million. Neither comes close to the vision for universal coverage so many of us fought for for years. We’ll all need to fight to continue to expand coverage in the bills this year, and in the years to come.6

    * The Senate public option is weak, and conservatives are pushing to make it weaker. The public option is a core piece of reform that will create real accountability and competition for private insurance—and that’s why it’s at the center of such a huge fight. While the House bill creates a national public option, the Senate lets states opt out, denying their residents access to it. Plus, conservatives are working to weaken it even more. We’re all going to have to fight hard for the strongest version possible.7

    * Many reforms don’t start quickly enough. While some pieces of reform go into effect right away, the larger structural changes are not scheduled to go into effect until 2013 (House bill) or 2014 (Senate bill). This includes the Exchange, the public option, and subsidies—the major ways coverage will be expanded.8

    * Required insurance could still be too expensive for many. Both bills require virtually all Americans to have insurance. But the caps on how much we’re expected to pay are way too high, and the subsidies are way too low. Many progressives are working to fix this, but it’s going to be a significant fight.9

    * Reproductive rights are severely restricted in the House bill. An egregious anti-choice amendment in the bill virtually prohibits anyone purchasing insurance in the Exchange from buying a plan that covers abortion—even if paid for with their own money. We need to make sure the final bill doesn’t include this rollback of reproductive rights.10

    * The Senate bill could discriminate against lower income workers. The current Senate legislation retains a version of what’s called the “free rider” provision, which essentially penalizes employers for hiring lower income workers. This provision needs to be fixed before the bill is finalized.11

  12. I comment rarely, cause I’m not American, and quite frankly, I’m glad I am not because I’m a senior on an afixed income. You folks are so screwed, and it is heartbreaking. I wish you the best of everything, honestly – my children have relatives in your country, and they are very good people, as are you all. None of you deserve this. Best wishes for a good outcome, although I have little hope there will be one. And BTW, all that propagana about the terrible inequities of the Canadian system, how it has failed, how it shows that single payer cannot work – bull testicles. I have lived more years than I care to remember. I have paid taxes for the entire time I have been of age – one gets used to it and one doesn’t miss it. I have never, not once in 60 years had to pay a doctor directly, other than non essential items such as Doctors letters. I have been treated for cancer (contrary to all that stuff n American TV, it was a prompt response), pancreatitis, pregnancy anomalies (1 in millions with the birth of conjoined twins). At the same time, I have watched people from other countries come here for treatment, which your news doesn’t report. For example, we have the Hrbie program, whereby Specialist/surgeons donate their time to try to correct terrible childhood problems. The administrative costs, such as transferring the children and their families here and supporting them, are covered by donations and the support for the entire family is provided by volunteers. We ain’t perfect by any means, but your press and politicians and talking head’s attempts to vilify us and hold us up as the poster child of failed single payer is ridiculous. Most of the Canadians who are being used in those infamous commercials had money and wanted immediate attention to THEIR situations. The rest of us don’t have money, and are just darned happy that we have a system that means we get basic health care.
    Sorry, I’m just a lurker, but I am so sad about what is happening in your country. I do hope you get something that is liveable.
    BTW, I will iterate – our health care is not free and I’m tired of the twits going on about anything being free. Northing is free. One has a choice – what does one want their taxes to support? I have paid taxes for more years than I can remember, but I’m damned happy that a percentage of thos monies supports healthcare for all – and if your pseudo-journalists and paid hacks argue against it, so be it. Bottom line, once the country has the advantage, these a@@holes may rant and raile, yet, it won’t make a smidgeoun of difference, cause the rest of us have access.

    • Thanks for the good wishes. Please comment more often, we have many non-Americans here–we could use you guys’ help trying to figure out how to fix all these problems.

  13. Apparently they’re voting on stupak language tommorow.

  14. SOD, I was so upset by the other issue that I forgot the Stupid amendment. I cannot believe that this is happening, I honestly cannot. I know, I’m an alien from another country, but WTH? I receive a letter every second year that I need a mammogram. I schedule an appointment with my doctor yearly, whereby a Pap smear is standard (and one year, I was called back six times for additional tests, because of the anomalies – not one of which was chargeable – but all of which were covered by the taxes that people had paid for so many years. People forget that the taxes this year are supposed to support programs, and politicians prey on that short term memory. Examples, the tax on gasoline was supposed to pay for road improvements – Toll roads anyone? The tax on cigarettes was originally supposed to pay for health care improvements.

    • Yep. They can say all they want that “it was just a recommendation”, and women are not going to be denied mammograms. Yet the ink is hardly dry and already low-income women are being denied.

      They are so utterly full of shit. And BTW, if there are around 30-some million uninsured, and the house and senate bills still leave 18 to 24 million still uninsured, then WHAT THE FUCK is going to cost us 8 billion dollars? What, exactly, are we paying for? They are cutting Medicare, they are cutting sevices, and not even adding THAT many people to the rolls of the insured, yet it’s going to cost so much?

      Has anyone else wondered at this? It makes no damn sense! Is the cost going to a) the insurance companies and b) the thousands upon thousands of new bureacracies they want to create what with this panel and that board? Lots of cushy job opportunities for political appointees, I’ll bet.

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