Senate Democrats are said to be thrilled over the Senate Finance Committee’s latest version of the healthcare bill because–it will cost only $829 billion instead of $1 trillion! Oh, and it will slash only $400 billion from seniors’ Medicare instead of $500 billion the way the earlier version did.
And–according to the Associated Press–it won’t even cover 25 million of the 46 million (or 30 million, or whatever President Obama says the number is) uninsured Americans by the time it’s fully phased in in 2019. Some 17 million of those are illegal immigrants who shouldn’t be on the government healthcare rolls in the first place, but 8 million is still a lot of ninsured in a system that promises universal coverage.
This “clean bill of health” from the Congressional Budget Office has Senate Dems jumping with joy because they’re still hoping to sign on Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe and thus pass off the bill as bipartisan. (Snowe, according to the Washington Post, is till noncommittal.)
The latest version of the bill, which the CBO analyzes as deficit-neutral, works its magic, not only by reducing spending on Medicare, but by pushing some of its costs onto the states by expanding Medicaid and by and “by imposing a series of fees on insurance companies, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers and other sectors of the health industry that stand to gain millions of new customers under the legislation.”
Fortunately, Republicans on the committee aren’t fooled. The Post reports:
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the committee, said he is worried that insurers and other health-care companies would pass on the cost of new fees and taxes to consumers. And he said the bill’s expansion of Medicaid would leave a new set of “unfunded mandates” for states already struggling with record budget deficits.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the legislation is likely to become more problematic as [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid works “in a closed-to-the-public conference room, somewhere in the Capitol” to add provisions aimed at winning the 60 votes needed to avert a GOP filibuster. “The real bill will be another 1,000-page, trillion-dollar experiment,” McConnell said in a statement, “that slashes a half-trillion dollars from seniors’ Medicare, raises taxes on American families by $400 billion, increases health care premiums, and vastly expands the role of the federal government in the personal health-care decisions of every American.”
Meanwhile, says the Wall Street Journal, moderate House Democrats are pushing to have the final House bill posted on the Internet for 72 hours before taking a vote–so that people (including some members of Congress, maybe?) will have a chance to read it and know what’s being voted on:
The Democratic dissenters are picking up on an amendment first proposed by GOP Senator Jim Bunning during the Finance Committee’s deliberations on health care. Mr. Bunning said he had been inundated with complaints from voters who “are tired of us taking the easy way out, tired of us not reading or having the time to read the bills.” Mr. Bunning’s amendment was voted down 12 to 11 after Finance Chairman Max Baucus said he could not waste any more time before passing a bill.
Moderate Democrats and Republicans have reason to be worried. The bill expected to be passed in the next few days by the Senate Finance Committee is likely to be completely rewritten by Majority Leader Reid, then rushed to the floor for a vote before anybody know what’s really in it. “Health care is too important an issue to see a telephone book-sized bill passed before people can understand it,” says Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington State Democrat who is leading a similar attempt to have a 72-hour “waiting period” imposed in the House.
But isn’t rushing the bill into law before anyone reads it the whole point?