Is Universal Health Care Near?

Somewhat overlooked during the drama and the carousel of umbrage-taking in the Democratic primary was some actual substantive wrangling between HRC and Obama (and Edwards) over the nuts and bolts of their respective health care plans. If the goal was to make sure everyone was covered, hers was the better plan: it mandated that people obtained some type of health insurance, while Obama’s did not. (His only required that children were covered; though hers had mandates for universal coverage, it was notably without any enforcement mechanism to make sure.)

So quadmoniker, who had said repeatedly that she hoped Obama would ditch his plan for Clinton’s if he were elected, must have been heartened by this news.

Without waiting for President-elect Barack Obama, Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, will unveil a detailed blueprint on Wednesday to guarantee health insurance for all Americans by facilitating sales of private insurance, expanding Medicaid and Medicare, and requiring most employers to provide or pay for health benefits.

Aides to Mr. Obama said they welcomed the Congressional efforts, had encouraged Congress to take the lead and still considered health care a top priority, despite the urgent need to address huge problems afflicting the economy.

The plan proposed by Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, would eventually require everyone to have health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies for those who could not otherwise afford it. …

The proposals are all broadly compatible with Mr. Obama’s campaign promises. But Mr. Baucus’s 35,000-word plan would go further than Mr. Obama’s in one respect, eventually requiring all people — not just children — to have coverage. …

Mr. Baucus would create a nationwide marketplace, a “health insurance exchange,” where people could compare and buy insurance policies. The options would include private insurance policies and a new public plan similar to Medicare. Insurers could no longer deny coverage to people who had been sick. Congress would also limit insurers’ ability to charge higher premiums because of a person’s age or prior illness.

People would have a duty to obtain coverage when affordable options were available to all through employers or through the insurance exchange. This obligation “would be enforced, possibly through the tax system,” the plan says.

Krugman, who had been a really vocal fan of Hillary’s plan, loves it.

(The word I hear, by the way, is that Obama’s opposition to mandates was tactical politics, not conviction — so he may well be prepared to do the right thing now that the election is won.)

So this looks very good for the reformers. There’s now a reasonable chance that universal health care will be enacted next year!

This also Baucus a major player on this issue, as Ezra notes.

He’s first out of the gate with a health reform plan. His position as chair of the Senate Finance Committee means his priorities are more than mere preference or moral exhortation: They are actionable. He controls the relevant committee, and if he decides it’s doing health care, then it’s doing health care. That’s not to say he won’t come to some sort of accommodation with Obama’s preferences on sequencing, but it will be an accommodation that recognizes Baucus‘s agenda, too. The dude’s got power.

4 thoughts on “Is Universal Health Care Near?

  1. quadmoniker November 12, 2008 at 5:53 pm Reply

    I knew it was only a matter of time. Businesses and health care providers have been on government for years now. And everyone agrees that, if cost control is one of the goals, it has to be a single-payer system. It’s not just about altruism. It’s about economics.

  2. ladyfresshh November 13, 2008 at 12:52 pm Reply

    i’m still worried about what the mandated costs will be and there has been no mention.

  3. G.D. November 13, 2008 at 12:56 pm Reply

    Baucus’s proposal is very, very preliminary, but it seems like the they’ll enforce the mandate via the way you’re taxed.

  4. ladyfresshh November 13, 2008 at 1:06 pm Reply

    ahh thanks GD. I’m actually happy this has been dragged back to the front burner. I’m just quite insecure as to what washington would consider affordable.

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