Where We Stand Now in Healthcare Reform

First, where we’ve been, and what a week it was. On Monday, President Obama continued his offensive, extending it to a conference call with bloggers which included WH wonks David Axelrod and Nancy Anne DeParle. A key snippet from that conversation to take forward this week–his reaction to my questions on co-ops. I asked if a co-op  plan could be a substitute for a robust public option, and while he didn’t rule it out, he said that WH researchers had yet to find a model that could provide the necessary clout to compete with private insurers. Obama’s willingness to consider co-ops is going to be a major test–it’s a pretty good bet that that’s what the Senate Finance Committee is going to come out with, possibly before August recess if Kent Conrad’s big, fat ego doesn’t get in the way.

Also on Monday, AHIP entered the public discourse with a series of “feel-good” ads, stressing their desire for bipartisan reform. Which of course we all know means “kill this bill,” because that’s all we got coming from the Republicans. Seriously, all. Even Howard Fineman recognizes that obstruction is all they got. As if to prove that point, on Tuesday, the RNC launched their reform initiative, a scary Web site detailing all the reasons that we really shouldn’t be doing this, but without any ideas on what exactly it is we should be doing instead.

Various Republicans continued on with various outrageous statements. Inhofe echoed the Bill Kristol “kill this bill” line, admitting that no vote by August would mean it was dead, so that was his endgame. At the same time, Grassley was making positive noises about getting the bill done, but then followed up on Friday with a series of tweets detailing just how opposed he really is to Obama’s plan.

And Baucus continued to dawdle, apparently oblivious to his negotiating partner Grassley’s real attitude toward reform, and despite the fact that a variety of news reports show that he’s become bad Dem  number one when it comes to taking money from the industries he’s supposedly trying to rein in with this reform. Baucus really doesn’t seem to get that being the Dem that takes the most money from the health care industry while dragging his feet on getting this reform done, presents any kind of problem for him or his reputation. I’m really hoping that the folks back home in Montana can disabuse him of that notion while he’s back home for recess.

Meanwhile, the Blue Dogs got far too much attention this week, beginning with a White House meeting on Tuesday. They continued their holding-their-breath while their faces turned blue routine in Energy and Commerce, finally forcing Waxman to call their bluff, announcing that he’d be more than willing to bypass E&C’s role in shaping this legislation, and telling them so. They had a tantrum, stormed out, but then quietly came back to the table, and mark-up resumes today, with the bill potentially being reported out today or tomorrow. Oh, and yeah, we found out that the Blue Dogs were also raking in the industry dough while playing their obstructionist games. Do any of them really think we don’t see the connection?

The week also, of course, featured Obama’s Wednesday, prime-time news conference, which threatened to derail his week in health care when he gave a very sensible answer to a very sensitive question. Distracted by the bright shiny object of the African American president intelligently addressing the issue of race, the traditional media collectively forgot that there’s also a groundbreaking piece of major policy to discuss. But then the shiny object of Gates was replaced by the even shinier object of Sarah Palin. There’s a surprise. Meanwhile, Obama kept pushing, with a townhall meeting in Ohio, and his weekly radio/web address.

Ok, so now we’re all caught up. Where do we go this week? Gawd only knows. Supposedly real movement from Senate Finance, but that seems unlikely. Reid has said no vote before August recess, but if Finance really did complete its work, who knows? In the House, E&C will probably finally pass the bill out. Should the Blue Dogs continue to obstruct, I would fully expect Waxman to make good on his word to allow the committee to be bypassed. Obama will keep pushing from the bully pulpit, because it is the single most important thing he can do.

The single most important thing you can do? Call or e-mail your senators and representative. Tell them not to leave for August recess until this is done in each of their chambers. While you’re at it, here’s something else to ask your senators: what fund-raising events they have scheduled that include hosts or target audiences made up of people from the health care industry between now and October. Because the money is going to start drying up from the industry as soon as this is done. Could it be that the delays in the Senate have anything to do with Senate Dems wanting to continue to milk that cash cow as long as possible?

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