Reid unveils Manager’s Amendment, Nelson endorses reform

REID UNVEILS MANAGER’S AMENDMENT, NELSON ENDORSES REFORM…. Several Hill sources have told me this week, “When you see the Manager’s Amendment, it means Reid has his 60.”

Well, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did, in fact, unveil his Manager’s Amendment — encompassing a wide variety of changes intended to satisfy a wide variety of demands — this morning. It’s online here (pdf).

And what about the caucus’ lone holdout? It took a long time, excruciating back-and-forth talks, and Harry Reid having the patience of Job, but Ben Nelson appears to be on board.

Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the final Democratic holdout on health care, was prepared to announce to his caucus Saturday morning that he would support the Senate reform bill, clearing the way for final passage by Christmas.

“We’re there,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), as he headed into a special meeting to announce the deal.

Asked this morning whether he was finally prepared to support the reform bill, Nelson told reporters, “Yeah.”

As of about 25 minutes ago, Reid was briefing the entire caucus — sans Lieberman, who is celebrating Hanukkah in Connecticut today — on the contents of the Manager’s Amendment. What’s more, the entire text of the measure, which is nearly 400 pages, is being read on the Senate floor in its entirety right now.

We’ll have a better sense of the Manager’s Amendment’s specific provisions in the coming hours, but a senior Democratic aide emailed me some talking points/bullets, which I’ve included below the fold.

From the background document:

The manager’s amendment builds upon the strong bill we already have.

Protects our good coverage, cost, and affordability number

* Reduces Deficits — estimated to save over $130 billion first ten and roughly $650 billion second ten

* Expands Coverage — over 94 percent of Americans under 65 years of age, including over 31 million uninsured

* Reduces Costs — most Americans will see their health care costs reduced relative to projected levels

Makes health care more affordable for Americans by expanding small business tax credits

* $12 billion increase

* Begins in 2010

* Expands wage thresholds for tax credits

Demands greater accountability from insurance companies/ creates more choice and competition

* Medical Loss Ratio 85/80 percent — Insurance companies will be forced to spend more money on care and less money padding their bottom line.

* Starting immediately children cannot be denied health coverage due to pre-existing conditions

* Insurance companies who jack up their rates will be barred from competing in the exchange.

* Give patients the right to appeal to an independent board if an insurance company denies a coverage claim

* Health insurers will offer national plans to Americans under the supervision of the Office of Personnel Management, the same entity that oversees health plans for Members of Congress.

* Provides significant resources for Community Health Centers