Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Harry Reid, The Opt Out Public Option, and Joe Lieberman

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - who by the way has just about the toughest job in Washington right now, and is facing a vicious re-election battle at the same time, poor guy - has announced that he will bring to the floor of the Senate a health reform bill that will include a version of the "public option." Specifically the opt out public option. Any questions?

Opt out what?

The public option, as you probably know already, refers to the opportunity of choosing to purchase health insurance that is government managed. Under most versions of the bill, including the one Reid is likely to propose, the public option would only be made available to a small number of people - specifically those who do not have or who lose their employer provided health insurance.

It would be not for profit, but is not intended to lose money - in face most estimates say it would reduce the government's health care expenditure. These consumers will have the option of chosing from a range of health insurance options across a national exchange, most of which would be privately managed for-profit alternatives, but one of which would be public.

The what public option?

Opt out. The opt out version of the public option means that all states will be automatically enrolled, allowing them to offer the public option in their exchange. But some people (Republicans, mainly, but some nervous Democrats as well) are making a big fuss about their preference for removing the public option as a choice.

Under the plan now proposed, any state that for whatever reason doesn't want to offer this option can choose not to offer it. States will be automatically IN the program, in other words, but if they don't want to offer people in their state the alternative of purchasing health care in this way, then they can choose to prevent people from doing buying it.

Why would they do this?

Beats the heck out of me. But then I'm not the one who's going around complaining about the supposed budget busting effects of this privision, which the CBO and almost all experts agree would actually REDUCE the cost of health care and the Federal Government's liabilities in this area.

Who is doing that?

Well, for a start - Joe Lieberman.

What's Joe saying?

Tonight he came out with a statement that he would would support a Republican filibuster of the bill as it currently stands.

And that's bad?

Well, it's certainly frustrating considering that:

1) The reasons he says he won't support the public option are not actually factually true.
2) Voting to support the filibuster is not the same thing as voting against the bill. Leaving aside the stupidity of his opposition, he could easily choose to vote against the final bill without endangering its passage. But voting with the Republicans in support of a filibuster prevents the bill from even being voted on - this is a far higher standard.
3) Democrats are barely in control of the requisite number to end a filibuster, so it's unclear whether any bill could be passed if Joe and his ilk really dig in their heels on this procedural issue.

Why would Joe Lieberman do this?

Dunno? Cuz he's kind of a schmuck?

1 comment:

Julian said...

Joe Lieberman ran in the general election against the Democratic nominee for US Senate from Connecticut in 2006.

Joe Lieberman endorsed John McCain in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Joe Lieberman decided to attend fundraisers for downticket Republican candidates in 2008.

Joe Lieberman is not only threateneing to vote against final passage of the healthcare bill (not a problem, as we have at least 50 senators who will vote for it), but to prevent this key Democratic issue from coming to a debate on the floor.

Oh, and let's not forget that Lieberman thought that it was unacceptable to use the filibuster to block such Republican proposals as confirmation of Bush's judicial nominees. So filibustering is OK only when it completely screws up the Democratic Party's agenda (and the American people).

What has the Democratic Party done about the fact that Lieberman ran against a Democrat, campaigned for Republicans, and now wants to prevent the Democrats from even getting a vote on their most important policy? Um, nothing*. He has the coveted Chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security committee. That needs to change the moment he votes to vote for a GOP filibuster.

*The one exception is that Lieberman was deprived of his DNC delegate status in 2008. However, I don't consider it so much retaliation as realism to say that someone who wanted McCain to beat any Democrat had no business deciding the Democratic candidate to run against McCain.