Although it seems like the Democrats’ healthcare reform bills have been zooming through Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts that there will soon be roadblocks. To the chagrin of the Obama administration, Reid believes that a final bill won’t pass before the ball drops on Times Square and 2009 draws to a close. The White House wanted a bill passed prior to Ryan Seacrest’s countdown to the new year. Why is that so important? Well, 2010 is an election year; the entire Congress will be up for re-election. Judging from the few elections held yesterday, things don’t look good for the Democrats. Their prospects will be even worse if the fight to reform the health insurance industry continues to drag on, instead of allowing the public’s memory to fade.
Unlike the House of Representatives, which is already close to voting on its bill, the Senate may not begin debate until December. There is some speculation that Reid is waiting for the final cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. He commented publicly that he doesn’t want to rush such an important bill. However, he is still striving to pass Obama’s top domestic priority by years’ end. They may be worried that waiting too long will make more likely that this administration’s attempt at providing more affordable health insurance will follow the failing path of Clinton’s.
This new development is just another example of why you shouldn’t wait for the public option if you can afford a health insurance plan now.
Over the past week or so, the public option has been on a roll. Democratic leaders of Congress have insisted that some form of a public option be included in their healthcare reform bill, considering it an essential step in providing the nation with more affordable health insurance. It wasn’t going to be an easy battle. Senator Joe Lieberman has expressed his opposition to such a government-run plan. The independent senator–who used to be a Democrat and still caucuses with the party–cites budget concerns as his primary reason for rejecting it, and believes it isn’t the right time to go into even deeper debt. A less charitable view is that he wants to continue receiving funds for his re-election from major health insurance companies, many of which are headquartered in his home state of Connecticut. Only Lieberman himself knows his motivations for sure.
Lieberman has stated that he will vote with Harry Reid in the initial procedural vote that allows the bill on the full Senate floor for further debate, but vows to be part of the inevitable Republican filibuster against any final bill that includes the public option health insurance plan. Leaders should take him seriously, since he’s well-known for switching sides: he even campaigned for John McCain during last year’s presidential campaign. Nobody said getting 60 votes in the Senate would be easy; don’t be stuck without a health insurance plan in the meantime.
(Image: Official U.S. Senate Portrait)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has joined the strong push for a public option in Congress’ healthcare reform bill, but its inclusion is not guaranteed. The provision’s fate is in the hands of moderate Democrats. Despite the ability for individual states to opt out of the government-run health insurance plan, centrist Democrats like Senators Ben Nelson and Max Baucus are still leery of voting for it. You should get a health insurance quote while you wait for the endless wrangling of votes to finish, since garnering 60 Senate votes to pass this bill will no doubt take awhile. The fact that several politicians in the party have received large campaign contributions from the health insurance industry doesn’t help.
Why the delay? The Senate and the House of Representatives have to debate exactly what form the public option will take, and moderates hold its fate in their hands. They need to compromise between comprehensive health coverage and cost. Gaining Republican votes is a lost cause at this point, so party leaders will be forced to exert their power. For example, Reid may try to convince a swing vote with a seat on a prestigious Senate committee–that a Senator will only get if he or she votes with him on healthcare reform. The more liberal House has a more comprehensive public option proposal included in its bill, and it must be combined with the bill in the generally more conservative Senate prior. Afterward, it’ll see even further amendments by the rest of Congress before a final vote. There is also the possibility, albeit less likely, that some liberal politicians will vote against the bill because it doesn’t do enough to reform our health insurance system. However, centrist politicians receive more attention from leaders because they are the wild card. Can you wait for Washington to decide, or would you prefer to be safe and get health insurance quotes from multiple insurers now? If, years from now, you like what the public option shaped up to be better than your existing health insurance plan, you’ll be able to switch–but if you’re caught uninsured before then, you’ll wish you hadn’t waited.