Grijalva eyes implementation schedule

GRIJALVA EYES IMPLEMENTATION SCHEDULE…. Rep Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has been fighting constantly all year to keep as many liberal provisions in the health care reform bill as possible. He’d made some veiled threats (and some not-so-veiled threats) about opposing any bill without a public option, though he’s now signaling his support for the watered-down legislation.

Grijalva’s is, however, looking for another concession — one that need not alienate any center-right members of the Senate Democratic caucus. He talked to Greg Sargent today, and said he’s eyeing the implementation schedule

In the inteview, Grijalva confirmed that House Dems were beginning to discuss the idea of revising the Senate bill in conference to move up the implementation date for insurance coverage and make it more in line with the earlier date in the House bill.

I asked Grijalva if he could support the bill if such a change were made, even if it lacked a public option or other similar concessions sought by liberals.

“It would sweeten it somewhat,” Grijalva said, “if they speed up the coverage mechanism.”

He added: “That would be something I’d have to look at very closely.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) seems to be thinking along the same lines, arguing today that the “starting date” will be a key focus in the conference committee.

As we talked about yesterday, the sooner the better. Paul Starr argued that a faster timetable should be a priority in the conference-committee talks, and there’s no reason to think lawmakers like Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman would object — they can come up with new objections on the fly, but neither have ever said a word about the implementation schedule. And why would they? There’s nothing ideological about it.

By all accounts, literally the only reason to delay implementation of subsidies until 2014 is to bring down the overall cost of the bill. The Senate version costs $871 billion over 10 years, which is below the ceiling the White House presented in September. Moving up the schedule means moving above the ceiling.

What I’m unclear on — and if anyone knows for certain, email me — is exactly how much it would cost to move up subsidies from 2014 to 2013 (or sooner still). Is it in the range of an additional $50 billion? Or closer to an additional $200 billion? The former makes it feasible; the latter does not.