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12.21.09

The Furies of Health Care

While Democratic lawmakers celebrate the impending passage of their bill, critics on both sides are taking their last stand. The Daily Beast rounds up the voices raining on Obama's parade.

Senate Democrats seeking to pass their health-care reform bill by Christmas overcame another obstacle early Tuesday morning when a 60-39 party-line vote finalized amendments to the package. But when the House and Senate conference to combine their bills, there’s not expected to be debate on most issues—except for abortion. Activists on both sides of the issue oppose the Senate’s abortion compromise, and both abortion-rights activists and conservative Democrats in the House have indicated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that they reject the Senate’s language. However, without the current language, it’s unclear whether the Senate can hang on to the necessary 60 votes. Under the Senate plan, insurers could offer abortion coverage but people who enroll in such plans would have to write two separate checks, one for abortion-services coverage and one for everything else. Below, The Daily Beast rounds up the latest arguments for and against the bill.

Trim the Pork Fat

The health-care bill is so larded with pork that “congressman began to lose track of what gift is for who,” writes Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior. Senators don’t know, for example, who requested one $100-million provision for a “health-care facility.” Others, Ozimek writes, are inefficient: “For instance, Medicare payments will be increased for states where 50% of the counties are “frontier counties”, meaning they have a population density of less than 6 people per square mile. Is there any reason whatsoever that it would be done this way rather than simply increasing Medicare payments to all counties with some given population density?” He concludes, “[T]here is such a thing as too much of this stuff, and there is an unlimited supply of lobbying for it, which suggests to me that we will be getting quite a bit more than “enough” health care facilities in the future.” [ Modeled Behavior]

Why Lefties Are Wrong on Health Care

As the Senate passed the second of three 60-vote hurdles on Tuesday morning, many liberals, led by Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake, were clamoring:  to kill the bill. Hamsher’s “Top 10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Health Care Bill” has been circulating, and at The Washington Post, Ezra Klein responds point by point. Hamsher, Klein points out, both criticizes for doing too little to control costs and then also takes aim at some of its cost-controlling measures. At the Wonk Room, meanwhile, a handy chart lays out what things will look like with and without reform. Without reform: 54 million uninsured, an average cost of $13,100 for a currently uninsured family, and seniors charged 11 times as much as younger customers. With reform: 23 million uninsured, an average subsidized cost of $10,133 for a currently uninsured family, and seniors charged, at most, three times as much as younger customers. [ Wonk Room]

Progressive Pushback: Firedoglake Gives Ten Reasons to Kill The Bill

Taxes will cause your employer to shrink-health coverage. Restrictions on importation will unreasonably raise drug costs. Insurance premiums will rise $1,000 annually for a family four. These are three of 10 reasons the writers at the progressive blog Firedoglake give for their oppositions to the bill. The Senate plan will benefit insurance companies, drug companies, and hurt families, writes blog founder Jane Hamsher. The bloggers are also concerned that restrictions on access to abortion will lead to a challenge of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. All in all, the progressives are none too pleased with the deal sealed in the Senate this weekend. [ Firedoglake]

Obama’s Nightmare: The Washington Post’s Samuelson Sees Bill as Misguided Legacy Building

“This isn’t about me,” President Obama likes to say; however The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson writes Monday that he fears the President protests too much. For Samuelson, the health care reform plan being pushed through Congress is an effort for Obama to secure a legacy as being the president who provided “universal” health care, no matter how unpopular or unproductive the move is now. According to Samuelson, Obama will regret it. America’s being sold a bill of goods, the columnist says, all because of “Obama’s self-indulgent crusade to seize the liberal holy grail of ‘universal coverage.’” [ Washington Post]

Sticker Shock: The Wall Street Journal on ObamaCare’s Hidden Costs

Don’t believe the CBO, says The Wall Street Journal: “The truth is that no one really knows how much ObamaCare will cost because its assumptions on paper are so unrealistic.” The op-ed board alleges accounting tricks to hide the total cost of the bill, including the new government-run “exchanges” that will be open to people whose employers don’t offer health-care coverage. If there are two workers who earn the same salary, but one’s employer offers coverage and the other’s does not, then the one without employer coverage stands to earn a lot more in government subsidies through the exchanges. “Given the incentives of these two-tier subsidies,” the Journal writes, “employers with large numbers of lower-wage workers like Wal-Mart may well convert them into ‘contractors’ or do more outsourcing. As more and more people flood into ‘free’ health care, taxpayer costs will explode.” [ The Wall Street Journal]

Clive Crook: The Bill Is Bad But Pass it Anyway

Health-care reform has so far been a fiasco, Clive Crook writes, and “It is delusional to suppose that you can significantly widen access to healthcare at no net public cost.” The Obama administration has failed “to rally the country behind an initiative that, at the outset, voters strongly supported.” And yet Crook hopes the legislation passes. The price may be high, but it is worth it to establish the principle of universal coverage in the United States. “Abandoning the effort now might postpone that goal for another decade or more. The country should regard this as unacceptable. Once the reform is law, though, the real work begins.” [ Financial Times]

Getting Biblical: Mike Huckabee Says Ben Nelson Is Judas

Plenty of attention has been payed to how the bill was passed, not only what's actually in it. With all eyes on Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the last holdout in the Democratic party, the pro-life lawmaker finally announced he would support the deal thanks to a compromise on abortion. But critics also pointed out that Nelson secured help paying Medicaid bills for his home state of Nebraska to sweeten the pot. No one hit him harder for the deal than former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who compared the negotiation to selling out Jesus Christ himself. "I don't want [senators] to go up there…and then somehow go back and boast, 'Here's some money that I got for you.' The last time we saw that kind of historic moment it was 30 pieces of silver and that didn't work out too well for us either," Huckabee told a crowd in Nelson's home state of Nebraska at an Omaha rally. The line was a reference to Judas Iscariot, who in the Gospels identified Jesus for Roman soldiers in exchange for “thirty pieces of silver.” Huckabee added that it is "historic and unprecedented that we are now bribing public officials openly - now we openly bribe them with $300 million at a time and tell them this is what your vote is worth." [ Political Ticker]