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May 18, 2009

Baucus and health care reform primer

Here's your reading assignment:

Today, the Senate Finance Committee released the third of three health care reform "description of policy options" papers.  The papers are available on the committee's web site:

Accompanying press releases with highlights are available here:

A brief comment period is open for the final policy options paper. 

See also Sen. Baucus' Call to Action white paper and related resources, and the Columbia Journalism Review Baucus Watch series.

Since the Senator plans to report out a health care reform bill within a month or so, looking over these resources would be a worthwhile exercise.

It will be interesting to see how the dance proceeds among the various parties: Congress, the myriad interest groups that have positioned themselves inside the big tent this time around, and the White House, which has taken at least two different approaches to the whole exercise: a Presidential directive to Congress to deliver something Obama can sign that is consistent with his broad health care platform, and closer staff contact meant to ensure that something workable actually gets crafted and passed, not only in the senate but in the House as well.

Much has been said in recent weeks about the public plan option, and whether it will go by the boards in order to appease vested interests.  Adding a public plan option to the Massachusetts Connector-like exchange is appealing, though, and it can be structured in a way that doesn't undercut private plans and send us directly into ... socialism.  

And finally, the elephant in the room is the question of how the dang thing will actually be financed.  The $2 trillion White House announcement and almost immediate backpedaling by the Administration's "partners" last week do not bode well, nor does last week's Washington Post article on the creative accounting used to come up with early estimates of savings linked to widespread EHR use ....  Eliminating or limiting the deduction for health benefits could help close the gap, and some EHR-related savings may be out there, but as they say: not bloody likely.

Read up and stay tuned.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting


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The love affair between Obama and the medical industry unraveled even sooner than expected. This is another example of how much easier it is to campaign on an issue than it is to govern. Closing the Guantanamo Bay prison is proving to be a more delicate issue now than it was before the election.

I expect health care reform to be a rocky road. The odds of success may be less than the 50-50 predicted by Tom Daschle.

Did Daschle say that? Last week, Sebelius was laying 75-25 odds in favor.

That Kaiser comparison site is a great resource.
(Your blog is one of the best, but I don't come here much because that snap-shot pop-up feature makes me crazy when I'm trying to read. Maybe it's a throwback to grammar school days but I sometimes use my mouse as an eye-tracking reading aid, like we used our index finger learning to read. When there are a lot of hyperlinks in the content it's like reading in a popcorn popper.)

Thanks! You're in good company: Ezra Klein said he hates it too ... perhaps it's time to retire it.

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