GAME ON…. As promised, the White House unveiled its health care reform proposal this morning, posting it online in advance of Thursday’s bipartisan summit. Here’s the 11-page blueprint (pdf) of what President Obama has in mind, and here’s the shorter overview.
It’s worth noting what the proposal isn’t. For example, the White House is emphasizing that the administration materials do not constitute a compromise of the House and Senate bills, but rather, is the president’s vision of what to do next. For that matter, the proposal isn’t exactly a new comprehensive package, either — it takes the House and Senate bills, and explains how Obama would like to see them improved in one final piece of legislation.
“We view this as the opening bid for the health meeting,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told reporters, adding, “We took our best shot at bridging the differences.”
To that end, Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback” is gone as a sweetheart deal, and now all states will have the same Medicaid assistance. A Health Insurance Rate Authority, to serve as a check against insurers’ rate hikes, would be created. The “donut hole” will be closed. The excise tax is part of the financing, but the eligibility threshold is raised, and implementation delayed until 2018, which should help ease concerns raised by unions.
There’s no public option, though there wasn’t expected to be one, and its fate will be considered later in the Senate.
Perhaps most importantly, Obama’s plan improves the subsidy rates for those who’ll be buying coverage, with a more generous package for the middle class than the Senate legislation.
As for legislative strategy, the White House seems fully on board with pursuing reconciliation in the Senate.
“The President expects and believes the American people deserve an up or down vote on health reform,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said on the call.
Pfeiffer said no decision had been made how to proceed, pending the outcome of the summit. But he added that Obama’s proposal is designed to have “maximum flexibility to ensure that we can get an up or down vote if the opposition decides to take the extraordinary step of filibustering health reform.”
That is the right way to characterize this — call for an up-or-down vote, and characterize Republican obstructionism as something “extraordinary.” If the GOP refuses to play a constructive role, Dems will have no choice but to proceed anyway.
Update: Igor Volsky did a really nice job with a table comparing the three different versions (House, Senate, White House).