So far, we know a lot less about the reported compromise between Blue Dogs and the Dem leadership on health care bill in the Energy Committee. We know that the Blue Dogs on this committee have announced that a deal has been cut. We know that under this deal the price tag of the bill will get cut by $100 billion over the next ten years. We know that there will be more emphasis on hospitals in rural areas. We also know that companies with payrolls of $500,000 and less will be exempt from being mandated to provide insurance. There will also be some changes to the public option though those changes aren't clear.
Here's what we still don't know. We don't know when any health care bill will be voted on the full House. The Blue Dogs have gained a commitment not to have a full vote before the break. The current plan is to vote on it in September after the House comes back from break. Of course, in political terms a month and a half is an eternity and anything can happen prior to that. We also don't know the details of the bill that will come out of the Energy committee. Most importantly, we don't know what if anything will come out of the Senate.
The only bill that has been released in detail is this House bill. The only full released bill is nothing short of a monstrosity. It includes at least ten new government regulators. It creates a health care exchange that will be regulated by one of these regulators. All health care providers will be forced to be part of this exchange if they use or provide insurance in their business. As such, almost the entire health care field will now be regulated by a yet created new government regulator. It includes regulation and rationing of cancer care, end of life care, and even electric wheelchairs. It forces audits on any company or individual that self insures. It mandates the government to see patient records, bank statements, and tax records. It even sets salaries for doctors. These are just a few of the "highlights" of this monstrosity of a bill.
So, if what comes out of the Energy Committee is largely a mirror of what is now the only full bill, with the changes mentioned earlier, the Blue Dogs will have betrayed the principles they have professed to believe in. They will have been exposed as much more Democrats than fiscal conservatives. The current bill is not fiscally conservative. The changes made will not make it fiscally conservative. For instance, the Blue Dogs screamed that they wanted to see more in the bill to "control costs". Yet, there's ZERO in the House bill, so far, to deal with tort reform. The hundreds of billion spent in unnecessary tests to protect doctors against potential lawsuits are NOT currently addressed. If the Blue Dogs sign onto a bill without tort reform, they will have betrayed their fiscally conservative principles.
Politically this is a small victory for the President but it is still very small. No bill will be voted on in either chamber before the August break. That means that at least two more sets of jobs numbers will come out before the vote, and the legislators will go home to hear from their constituents before voting on any final bill. If the bill doesn't change markedly from the current version, they will get an earful. The rationing, government control, and ACORN giveaways are only now being analyzed. The changes that the Blue Dogs received will be marginal outliers if the final bill continues to include the basic tenets of the current House bill.
So, the Democrats and the President have extracted a change in momentum but I still believe it is short term and temporary. The trend continues to be against health care reform. It doesn't appear as though the Democrats have any desire to really moderate health care. Until and unless they do, health care reform will not happen. It remains to be seen if what comes out of the Energy Committee will be real moderation or merely window dressing. That will determine just how close we are to passing health care reform.
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