Nearing the health care ‘endgame’?

NEARING THE HEALTH CARE ‘ENDGAME’?…. Following up on an item from yesterday, Democratic policymakers working on health care reform are facing something of a deadline over the next week.

The White House has said it intends to “post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package” in advance of the Feb. 25 bipartisan summit, just eight days away. While there’s an ongoing possibility that the White House will simply present its own reform package at the event, the goal has been to strike a compromise between the already-passed House and Senate proposals.

Sources on the Hill yesterday suggested inter-chamber talks have borne no fruit of late, making it difficult to see how a final plan would be ready for Thursday — or even earlier, since the plan would have to be online for a while in advance of the summit.

Greg Sargent reports today, however, that an “endgame” may be in sight.

…House and Senate Dem leaders are in fact edging towards reaching a deal on a health care reform package to take to next week’s big summit, leadership aides tell me, though it remains a steep uphill climb.

The aides also say that Senate Dem leaders are warming to the idea of using reconciliation to fix their bill after the summit — suggesting an endgame may be taking shape.

It’s been widely assumed that the House and Senate had hit a virtually insurmountable snag, and yesterday Robert Gibbs hinted that the White House might step in and forge a compromise of its own to take to the summit.

But leadership aides tell me that while the snag is still serious, there’s still a decent chance of an agreement. That would allow Dems to head into the summit with a united front.

Greg characterized the debate over financing — to go with the excise tax or not — to be the key sticking point, just as it has been for quite a while. There are, however, some “tweaks” that are being considered, which could expedite matters on the House side, while the appetite for using reconciliation in the Senate appears to be growing.

Christina Bellantoni also reports this afternoon that a final agreement is likely to materialize, if not entirely before the summit, then soon after. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the DCCC, said a deal is 90% complete, and that the two chambers are “very close to reaching a final agreement.”

It’s taken a beating, and it’s hardly out of the woods, but health care reform isn’t dead.