Is Obama's Bipartisan Healthcare Summit an Attempt to Recuperate the Cadillac Tax?

When Max Baucus delayed finalizing the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare bill last August in the name of getting bipartisan support from Olympia Snowe or Chuck Grassley, Republicans and teabaggers spent the month talking about death panels. Allowing the delay in the false hope of bipartisan support was, among a string of poor decisions, probably the worst decision the Obama Administration made.

So why is Obama planning on a bipartisan healthcare summit for later this month?

The move has gotten a lot of people trying to puzzle WTF (?!?!?) Obama intends to achieve. Here are Greg Sargent’s thoughts:

A lot to chew on here. Republicans will spin this as proof that Obama has shelved reform, wants to start again, and will only pursue a bill that GOPers sign onto. Liberals will be dismayed at the apparent suggestion that Obama seems to actually be saying that such common ground could form the basis of anything approaching real reform — and that he’s leaving open the possiblity of doing “compromise” legislation with Republicans.

It’s possible, though, that this is all about laying the groundwork for pursuing a Dem-only reconciliation solution later. Such an effort, should it happen, will inevitably be portrayed as yet another partisan back-room effort to ram reform through. So perhaps the White House hopes a very public gesture of bipartisanship and transparency now will undercut those attacks and allow Dems to argue that they had no choice but to move forward alone.


Update: Maybe the game plan is to give skittish Congressional Dems cover to support a Dem-only reconciliation (i.e., “back-room” and “partisan”) approach later.

Update: Nancy Pelosi, who’s been much more realistic throughout this process than the White House or the Senate about the likelihood of bipartisan cooperation ever happening, endorses this in a statement:

“I welcome the President’s call for a bipartisan, bicameral discussion in front of the American people on fundamental health insurance reform that will make quality care affordable for all Americans and American businesses. The House and the Senate will continue to work between now and February 25th to find a common approach between the House and the Senate on these solutions.

“The House-passed health insurance reform legislation included a number of Republican amendments – added as the bill worked its way through three committees. In the last Congress, we worked with President Bush in a bipartisan way to pass initial economic recovery legislation, a bill to deal with the financial crisis and historic energy legislation that increased our nation’s fuel efficiency standards for the first time in more than 30 years. We remain hopeful that the Republican leadership will work in a bipartisan fashion on the great challenges the American people face.”

Either this is a coordinated cave, or it’s a coordinated effort to lay the groundwork for a Dem-only solution later.

I think Greg’s thoughts are probably the most likely explanation. Still, I’ve got a nagging suspicion this is an attempt to recuperate the Cadillac tax–or some sort of end to the health insurance tax break.

As Ezra lays out, the Cadillac tax–insofar as it chips away at the tax break for employer-sponsored health care–is a policy that both George Bush and John McCain supported, in even more radical forms.

The solutions the GOP has on its Web site are not solutions at all, because Republicans don’t want to be in the position of offering an alternative bill. But when Republicans are feeling bolder — as they were in Bush’s 2007 State of the Union, or John McCain’s plan — they generally take aim at one of the worst distortions in the health-care market: The tax break for employer-sponsored insurance. Bush capped it. McCain repealed it altogether. Democrats usually reject, and attack, both approaches.Not this year, though. Senate Democrats initially attempted to cap the exclusion, which is what Bush proposed in 2007. There was no Republican support for the move, and Democrats backed off from the proposal. They quickly replaced it, however, with the excise tax, which does virtually the same thing. The excise tax only applies to employer-sponsored insurance above a certain price point, and it essentially erases the preferential tax treatment for every dollar above its threshold.

And of course, the excise tax is probably the biggest sticking point between the House and the Senate.

I can’t help but suspect that Senate claims that they can’t figure out how to pass a fix through reconciliation are, instead, lame excuses mobilized to protect the excise tax that they (and presumably, the Administration, still want). And Pelosi’s response that there simply are not the votes for the healthcare bill in the House is her equally intransigent refusal to pass something that won’t do what it was promised to do and will piss off the unions Democrats need to get elected in November. In other words, the Senate and the House appear to have hit an impasse over the excise tax, one that prevents the most obvious solution to passing health insurance reform.

And all of this has happened at a time when the Administration’s Cadillac tax booster, Jonathan Gruber, has gotten very quiet. At least some of Gruber’s claims (notably that workers would get a raise, but also, probably, that companies would save money, and therefore, possibly even the claims about revenue and cost controls) haven’t survived closer scrutiny. So how can the Administration still argue for a Cadillac tax if it won’t do what they promised it would?

Mind you, even if this speculation is right, I still don’t know WTF (!?!?!?) Obama would intend to accomplish with this summit. Is he just planning on bringing John McCain into a room and saying, “John, I have a great idea! Let’s borrow that idea that you proposed last year that turned out to be such a dud electorally?” Or is he going to try to get the Republicans to commit to the excise tax, since they would welcome an opportunity to screw the unions, regardless of how stupid the underlying policy was?

I do know this. For some time, the White House’s efforts to pass the excise tax barely hid their underlying objective to eliminate tax breaks for employer provided health insurance. So while this is entirely speculative, I do wonder whether Obama is trying to use Republicans to either justify a switch to a different plan, eliminating the tax break, or at the very least, to build pressure for the policy among Democrats.

  1. Diane says:

    My guess would be that the Dems will offer up a bit of tort reform and dare the R’s to turn their backs on what they have always said they wanted.

    • bmaz says:

      Well that is a lovely thought. How perfect for the Dems and Obama. Take an absolutely horrid idea long a pipe dream of conservative corporatist authoritarians, unjustified in policy of patient’s and citizens’ rights, demonstrably ineffective in substantively controlling or reducing cost, and just give it to them with the starry eyed hope that a controversy can be ginned up.

      Fucking brilliant plan.

      (and Diane, that ire is not aimed at you whatsoever)

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Once voters get a bead on the implications of the Chevy Cadillac tax, I think Obama’s and the Democrat’s support in November tanks. It makes many plans more expensive for the insured. It gives cover for companies to allocate an even higher percentage of costs onto the shoulders of workers, whose income is not going up. It gives those companies a further incentive to drop health care plans altogether.

    If Obama’s “reform” gives those whose employers have dropped health care plans nothing but a mandate to buy unreformed private health insurance, Obama will have dumped his base from the employer’s frying pan into the unregulated health insurers’ fire. Even the prospect of that is likely to make workers take out the frustrations in the voting booth, especially mid-year, when doing so won’t change the occupant in the White House.

    • emptywheel says:

      Agree. Even if they were going to replace the employer provided care with a great single payer plan, it would infuriate people. But making people go into the market?

    • PJEvans says:

      It might not change who’d in the WH, but it might change his mind, especially after a lot of the incumbents get dumped.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It may depend a lot on which Congresscritters get dumped and the rationalizations Rahm uses to ignore the messages voters are really sending.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Without expanded Medicare and/or a credible public option and/or substantially stricter health insurance regulations, no one will miss that Obama is funneling customers to unregulated private insurers. Part of their revenue will be publicly funded, at the expense – absurd for a Democratic administration – of greater rather than fewer restrictions on what plans will cover (such as abortions and contraceptives and “women problems”).

    If Obama’s legislation fails to include a tough federal regulator, the doors it attempts to close – such as prohibiting rescision or excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions – will allow insurers to open new windows that will permit equally fraudulent gaming of the system.

    • posaune says:

      Because, I suspect, clinical trial participations are going to be part of the “New Affordability!.”
      Recently I was in a planning meeting for the development of a new hospital center (major metropolis).
      I asked the president of the organization (i.e. corporation), why the specific choice for relocation site.
      He said, “because its located conveniently for needy folks who can participate in our drug trials.”
      I responded (in the presence of a full table of players) that I would hope that indigent care is not predicated on a person’s statistical cog in a pharmaceutical’s profit venture. Gasp! Quick change of subject.

        • posaune says:

          Nah. I’m only the technical professional in the bunch. The others are the CEO, CFO, the politicians. There is NO way the site will change, since the hospital is located next to new FDA labs.

        • posaune says:

          Hate to tell you this, too, but this is a “religious” organization (corporation). Some charity, huh?

    • emptywheel says:

      Nah, I was thinking recuperate because the involvement of Republicans might give it a different face that made it more “legitimate” (or rather, honest) than the old version.

  4. Jon Walker says:

    Obama has throw away his hope of passing health care reform in his misguided love of the excise tax.

    I could respect the move if he actually supported it for years but the fact that he ran directly against the idea which he now refuse to give up is mind boggling.

  5. Jane Hamsher says:

    John McCain and Larry Summers share the same dream: get rid of the employer-based health care system. That’s what the Cadillac Tax is designed to do.

    Surely they can find some common ground, right?

    • Jon Walker says:

      Don’t forget the very weak employer mandate in the bill. Why give your employee insurance if the government will providing with affordability tax credits on the exchange and you pay only a $750 penalty.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That will leave the sick and dying and those afraid of becoming too sick to work or to send their children to school at the tender mercy of the for profit health insurance racket. A few thousand Randian wealthy will then have more reason to take the jobs their companies produce offshore. They may be reluctant to shop, dine or travel domestically, or let their children play with the plebes, lest they become soiled and sick of a preventable disease. That’s not just Orwellian, it’s a kind of Wellsian future we won’t need a time machine to find.

    • NorskeFlamethrower says:

      Citizen Jane Hamsher:

      “Surely they can find some common ground, right?”

      Yep, and the common ground has been there since the beginnin’ of this entire cartoon, it’s called “the public option”.

    • mikesong says:

      I thought all good liberals wanted to get rid of the employer-based system too? I sure do. Employer-based healthcare is an albatross around the neck of any country that wants to compete in a global economy. But it doesn’t look there are more than a few in the Senate that agree with me.

  6. btal says:

    It is pure political theater being set up by Obama. More than likely, as noted, in a lame attempt towards some sort of reconciliation. It will fail and the public will see it for what it is – a scam. The proof being is Obama’s statement to Couric that he won’t take either bill off the table. Here is all the Republicans have to do to expose the scam.

    There initial comments when setting down at the table should be:

    Mr. President thank you for inviting us to help craft the best solution facing health care in America. We have a some questions that need to be cleared up before we can start, as you stated, “going through these individual bills”.

    1. Which of the two passed and pending bills are we going to use as the base line?

    2. Does this mean that we are creating a new bill to be voted on after we have worked through the existing two bills? To do HCR correctly, and we assume you do want to do it correctly Mr. President, will involve creating a new bill with the agreed upon elements. Doing it incorrectly would be to expect either one of these bills to be passed by the alternate chamber then immediately follow up with another “fix” bill. Mr. President, that is not the type of proper legislation and leadership the country is expecting from us.

    3. Finally Mr. President, we need to know EXACTLY what has been promised in your secret closed door meetings/deals with Pharma, Unions, AARP and Hospitals. The details of those deals along with YOUR PLEDGE to allow them to be removed and/or altered for good HCR for all Americans.

  7. jedimsnbcko19 says:

    Obama, Rahm, and some Dems think the american people are complete idiots.

    Obama by taking this action is trying to tell the american people the SENATE HCR SCAM bill was to progressive. (this is a sham)

    Obama is determine to govern the USA from the center right. (Obama the candidate runs as a Progressive, at the end of the day he is an elite trojan horse)

    Real progressive dems have better wake up and realize that Obama does not care about their political careers. Obama is looking forward to governing the USA with the GOP. (at the end of the day you must get rid of the progressives, this is Rahm agenda)

    Obama is not insane, he is just trying to kill and demoralize progressives.

    How many people believe Obama is now going to announce his love for the Public Option?

    Why doesn’t Obama do a Q & A with the base of the Democratic Party?

    Why doesn’t Obama invite Wendell Potter an Insurance Expert to White House and ask him how to fix Health Care?

    Obama acts like he can’t read a poll? Public Option is loved by the majority of the american people

    Scott Brown won, because Obama did not deliver on his promises to PROGRESSIVES.

    What has Obama done to make progressives jump for joy? Nothing

    • gesneri says:

      And even if he did announce his love of the public option, the version proposed was so feeble it would be almost worse than nothing. State-based rather than national exchange, limited enrollment, etc.

      • tarheellefty says:

        It’s a start. A weak public option now could be strengthened later.

        I guess we could just give up and let Republicans govern because we don’t get 100% of what we want…


  8. Prairie Sunshine says:

    Republican whiner telling Tweety the Dems said they won a year ago [the supermajority, I assume he means] so we’ll do it our way. Well, tell it to Franken.

    I have a growing confidence that Dems’ll complete HCR right at the moment when it will be most effective to influence 2010 even more blue. Rethugs will rue the day they played the stonewall card, because they’re going to find themselves under a football field sized pile of see-ment….

    • Prairie Sunshine says:

      Oh, and props to Jane for the Ratigan show appearance. O/T he also talked about online poker. Methinks: talk about a golden moment for Obama–veto/stop online poker and the Las Vegans and other Nevadans will groundswell for Reid.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      OT, but did anyone else get served a Toyota ad in the upper right of the page?! (A 60sec video ad re: the recalls.)

      Dayum. That’s one of the best ads that I can recall. Holy cats!

      As for health care, here’s EW’s comment:

      Mind you, even if this speculation is right, I still don’t know WTF (!?!?!?) Obama would intend to accomplish with this summit. Is he just planning on bringing John McCain into a room and saying, “John, I have a great idea! Let’s borrow that idea that you proposed last year that turned out to be such a dud electorally?”

      I’m with btal @19 and Prarie Sunshine: this is all political theatre.

      And IMVHO, it’s excellent political theatre and **exactly** what Obama needs to do: let the GOP expose themselves as the corporatist shills they’ve become, let the whole nation see that those airheads use bubble gum for brains and consequently have no solutions of their own.

      It’s the smartest thing that Obama can do, and clearly the GOP is trying to blame their unwillingness to be revealed on Obama, by making bullshit, stupid demands.

      Personally, I’m starting to get a warm, fuzzy glow if what’s happening is what I think is happening: exposure. Exposure of the GOP’s ineptitude, intractability, insolence, and inability to negotiate in good faith.

      This is more fallout from BushCheney grabbing power in 2000 (and 2004) without a clear voter mandate: the GOP got used to thinking that grabbing power and behaving ‘ruthlessly’, amorally, and on behalf of corrupt corporate interests was a form of ‘governance’. It wasn’t.

      It was a period in which they acted like thugs, which means that now they are caught with their pants down, and incapable of developing the arts of negotiation and compromise quickly enough to save their pathetic hides in November 2010.

      The GOP no longer has the political skills to be relevant.
      All they have are PR skills, and up against Obama those aren’t going to work.

      Makes me feel all warm and happy, just thinking about it.

    • PJEvans says:

      Especially since they’ve made it very clear that there’s nothing he can do that will make them vote for anything he wants.

      I wonder what they’d do if he wanted their votes to get himself out of office?

    • btal says:

      Old adage in sales and politics, If you’re going to lose, never lose alone.

      No GOP support puts the entire failure of at his and the Dem’s feet. The price of that failure will be a generation of no Dem in the WH or Dem control of congress.

  9. powwow says:

    Two posts ago you quoted the Financial Times article that states:

    And barring Richard Nixon’s White House, few can think of an administration that has been so dominated by such a small inner circle.

    Does it bother anyone else that this same “small inner circle” was, and apparently continues to be post-Massachusetts, allowed to dictate the health reform legislation to Congress? Or at least the broad parameters of what is considered acceptable to that same “small inner circle” in the Executive Branch (which probably includes, in effect, two of the Emanuel brothers). All because Democratic Members of Congress continue to allow their leadership to pass the buck to the Executive Branch, and thus Congress won’t buck the White House to do its own health reform bill-writing in committee.

    “In committee,” by definition, meaning with the Democratic-majority power balance that the voters gave Congress in 2008, no matter how many “bipartisan” ideas may be offered during committee deliberations. A power balance with a Democratic majority that can therefore outvote any Republican ideas that are considered unwise.

    “At the White House,” on the other hand, apparently means reversing the Democratic-majority power balance in Congress that the voters created in 2008 – by instead giving Republicans, through their leadership, half the power in the ‘negotiations’ with non-legislators and/or Democratic legislators in Executive Branch meeting room(s). No matter how many C-SPAN cameras are there, they can’t replace the Democratic majority in Congressional committees of jurisdiction, that the “small inner circle” at the White House continues to try to supplant.

    One more predictably-bad consequence of the two Parties in Congress continuing to ignore the separation of powers and the central role of our Congressional representatives in a self-governing Republic.

    • Sand says:

      Very worrying. I really don’t think the ‘inner circle’ cares one bit if we lose big time this year — maybe the ’90’s was just the start — chipping away at the republic? Rahm and Schumer bringing in their repub. blue dogs and neocons.

      With the same old dem consultants [Carville et al.] — getting their same old salaries [they’re not worried either way.]

    • 4jkb4ia says:

      But the sticking point is to get 50 votes in the Senate, and then offset the ones who will go with Stupak in the House. (Nate thought there were 10 hardcore people.) Just by kicking it back to committee doesn’t assure you of 50 votes or build trust with the House.

      I suspect Obama thought this was genius because passing a health care bill is a test of his ability to bring people together. Bringing in the Republicans “brings people together” and gives Reid a deadline.

        • 4jkb4ia says:

          Blackmail! It would be a shame for the world markets if we had no Fed chairman!

          I tried to figure out if you could amend a nomination but is not helpful.

  10. NorskeFlamethrower says:


    Citizen emptywheel and the Firepup Freedom Fighters:

    Let’s take a step back and inhale deeply and take a look at what’s happened in the last six months to the old 20th century politics of triangulation and legislative larceny for the corporations. First we got the fascist bailout passed on as Bush’s last kiss on the cheek to the American taxpaying suckers, and Obama took it on the noggin’ from the Republicans and got himself and his administration boxed in with Goldman Sachs and the banksters. Then ObamaRahma pulled the old Statue of Liberty play with the health insurance industry and Wall Street in the original health reform offering and the public rejected the insurnce industry and pharmacutical industry bailout and blew Rahm’s triangulation of the Democratic base right outta the water. In between all this, ObamaRahma managed to lose 2 governorships and the Kennedy Senate seat while maintaining Obama’s poll numbers in the mid 50″s. So Obama takes the gloves off on national TV with the House Republican stupids, then he drags ’em kickin’ and screamin’ to the State of the Union where he basically waterboards ’em again on national television. The poll numbers start movin’ back into the stratosphere and Obama figures out that Rahm is NOT Machiavelli but more like Bernie Madoff.

    So now Obama is lookin’ into the abiss of November and figurin’ out that the fascist Republicans are NOT about to triangulate, bifurcate or even sit down for beers with a Black president and his Jewish Chief of Staff. He knows that if he can get healthcare done to satisfy the Democratic base then he stands a real good chance of gettin a jobs bill and a budget passed for his party to run on in November. So do ya really think he’s gunna isolate two of the four pillars of the new Democratic coalition (labor and the trial lawers) by runnin’ the same game that the people threw back in his face in September??!! Good lord Sister Marcy, even a real Clinton wouldn’t be that stupid.


  11. anarchisttendencies says:

    As a very small business owner, I think the concept of taxing health benefits is a good idea, but it’s being done wrong. Many people do not seem to understand the real cost of health insurance, which is a major reason it is running out of control (another 17% increase in premiums this year for my business). For someone making 30k/yr, it’s 15% of their salary. I think that health benefits should be taxed as income for everyone, because it is compensation. However, this has to happen in conjunction with a couple other things:

    1) Compulsory insurance exchanges – Every policy option gets put out there, and everyone gets an opportunity to buy it.

    2) Employees have the option of receiving the cash instead of insurance from the employer. The employer is paying the same amount no matter what. This would be good for couples where both have employer offered insurance.

    Cost control needs to be the first goal of any reform initiative. If cost controls work, the public are going to be much more open to ideas like expanding medicaid to provide health welfare to more citizens.

  12. mikesong says:

    I don’t know what you’re talking about with the Cadillac Tax. You’re right that it is one of the biggest sticking points, but that’s all the more reason to keep the discussions internal. You think Republicans will help?!

    This meeting is obviously just to give cover for reconciliation, not that they need it since the public has no idea what reconciliation is and couldn’t care less.

    • btal says:

      Aaahhh, it’s all or nothing. Great idea – welcome to 1994.

      I say go for it. The public will show how elite condensation plays out in the ballot box.

      • mikesong says:

        I don’t mean to condescend, but I think you meant condescension, not condensation? The only way we repeat 1994 is if we do the same thing as then – nothing.

  13. 4jkb4ia says:

    This whole issue of Stupak also pointed out a problem with powwow’s pledge to “defend the Constitution”. If you don’t think there is even a right to privacy in the Constitution, and you take the pledge, can you be held accountable in a nonpartisan way?

    • powwow says:

      For those wondering what my “pledge to defend the Constitution” is a reference to, I assume 4jkb4ia is thinking of this Seminal diary I wrote a while back. [About a way to use the Democratic Party to get on the ballot and into office, and then to break the hold of the Democratic leadership on the caucus, basically, when that hold is working to violate or ignore the Party platform and good, Constitution-respecting government in general.]

      Stupak’s amendment is an interesting example of a situation that test-runs my proposed pledge. I suppose the answer is “Yes,” he could be held accountable (although maybe only by Democrats), given the Supreme Court’s current interpretation of the Constitution in Roe v. Wade. Then again, who wants to accept Citizens United as the Constitutional norm for the funding of our elections…

      But I think the publicly-financed campaign issue probably needs to be the issue that takes primacy in such a pledge, especially after Citizens United. While the Constitution-respecting part would do more to raise public awareness perhaps, than to exact any real consequences, at least until the campaign finance issue can be solved.

      [As to getting to 50 in the Senate, and passing the House, I’m optimistic that if Congress was allowed to write its own bill(s), with Republican input upfront in committee, including some substantive portion acceptable to the Democrats in committee passing, there’d be at least a few Republicans supporting the final product. And I think such an end product would likely be better than today’s Senate bill, even as ‘reconciled.’ If only because more minds at work on a problem are generally always going to improve and hasten the solution. But we’ll never know, if no one tries.]

        • powwow says:

          Most definitely. Except at the direction of the full committee, staffer that she is…

          No more 50% Democrat/50% Republican private “Gangs of Six” to thwart and sidestep the Democratic-majority formal public committees, either.

          And maybe, just maybe, real, thorough and inclusive Congressional hearings featuring those on the frontlines of the current health care system, before the bill writing is (re)started.

  14. temptingfate says:

    So how can the Administration still argue for a Cadillac tax if it won’t do what they promised it would?

    Once a person accepts the idea that “bending the cost curve” is more important than nearly any other single thing then all other considerations are secondary. Obama and some of his excise tax supporters, have said on more than one occasion that reducing the amount of GDP going into health care spending is much more important than other issues like improving health care. Since he he has made it clear he won’t get involved with controlling costs through negotiating reduced standardized costs and procedures because of a fear of death panel labels and because it would antagonize lobbyists, his options are limited.

    Once enough people no longer have health insurance that doesn’t involve massive co-pays the spending will naturally go down as they avoid using money they don’t have for reduced medical care.

    Without the forcing businesses to cut their spending on insurance, via the excise or just getting rid of tax credits, he has no other way to bend that curve. My guess is that he’s going to keep looking for ways to bend it because it is one of the things he has repeatedly said should be done.

    Sometimes you have to break a few eggs in order to keep some future chickens from roosting.

    • emptywheel says:

      If the excise tax were going to bend the cost curve, then the last thirty years of employers doing precisely what they’ll do in response to the excise tax would have bent the cost curve too. It hasn’t. There is zero reason to believe that the excise tax will do so either, unless you listen only to abstract economists rather than looking at actual data from real life.

      • robspierre says:

        You make a convincing case. Clearly The White House wants this excise tax. My question is “Why?” What possible advantage–political, fiscal, medical, moral, or whatever–can this excise tax possibly have?

        I don’t get it. The tax is unpopular with voters of more or less every political persuasion. The cost-bending argument was never very plausible and has by now been thoroughly debunked, so the tax doesn’t make healthcare look less costly. The tax offends the Democratic base and the unions. If actual care is still even a concern, the tax undercuts what quality care there is in the US.

        If there were a public option and the aim were to drive people away from expensive private plans to public care, I could see how it might make some sense. But there is no public option.

        So what does Obama think that getting the tax buys him?

        • emptywheel says:

          There is a good case to be made for ending employer-based health care. It creates imbalances in the system, it is not portable, and prevents us from getting one rational system. That’s why I think they want this–to move away from employer based health care. It’s also notable, that the Senate plan also has only weak penalties for employers not providing care, and doesn’t penalize employers when their employers rely on Medicaid.

          The problem is they’re not talking about a real transition to get from the current system to one where people have their insurance themselves.

          • robspierre says:

            Well, I certainly understand about employment being a lousy way to do healthcare. But, in the absence of national health, there is a reason why it is that way. Unless the idea is to burn the village in order to save it, I don’t see how ending employer care is desirable.

      • temptingfate says:

        That or hire a true believer economist with previously biased research and flawed conclusions to get out the word.

        This is the religion of minimal regulation needed to protect the inherent good derived from profitable markets being bounced around the echo chamber. The real world hardships have very little place except as notations in the ledger. Protecting the market is the greater good. The Chicago School of Economics.

  15. stryx says:

    And I’d also like to suggest that this HCR Summit would be the current analog to the Portland Timber Summit, which started the Northwest Forest Plan process in 1993.

    The whole big deal involved the Clinton Administration triangulating off the faces of the dirty hippies. Many environmentalists felt they got burnt to provide cover to Clinton and the corporate timber interests, so much so that they started a petition drive against Al Gore in the 2000 election.

    Rahm was there, saw it as a successful move and we’re going to see it played out again.

  16. 4jkb4ia says:

    But the nomination counts as “executive business” and HCR would be a bill, or “legislative business”.

  17. tarheellefty says:

    I think the House should pass the Senate bill and the Senate should pass the House’s “fix.” That “fix” should have a public option. Pass the House fix using reconciliation.

        • btal says:

          It would be the establishment of a new federal entity and/or the altering the charter of an existing one with new policy. Therefore it is not budgetary in nature and the Parliamentarian will exclude it from any reconciliation bill.

          • bmaz says:

            First off, a measure can be submitted to budget reconciliation so long as it brings spending, revenues, or the debt-limit into conformity with the current budget resolution, is passed through the requisite committees and is not in direct violation of the Byrd Rule. Putatively, the public option could be structured to comply with all that quite easily, and there is no ostensible reason the PO could not be enacted via reconciliation. Your argument/points regarding “establishment of a new federal entity and/or the altering the charter of an existing one with new policy” are not part of any law or rule I am aware of and are impertinent.

            • btal says:

              Under what program/department will the PO be created? Under what rules will it be operated and/or what Cabinet Secretary/ies will be directed to publish rules and guidelines? Answers to either of those questions will immediately trigger Point of Order challenges. An agreement to the Point of Order by the Parliamentarian then requires a 60 vote majority to overturn the ruling.

              Finally, reconciliation is fools gold for the left as it adds a 5 year expiration window. Considering many of the current bills provisions aren’t effective until 2014, the entire house of cards is in jeopardy of a Jenga removal via a subsequent Congress and/or the courts.

        • selise says:

          how does that work if the regulation necessary to make the po viable can’t be included (if summers would let hhs actually implement it even if they wanted to)?

          imo: maybe if it’s big enough to compensate for the lack of regulation. like stark’s hr 193.

          • bmaz says:

            For starters, regulations do not have to emanate from statutes or acts. I am not saying it would be easy to do through reconciliation; I am saying that, from what I have seen, it can be done.

      • tarheellefty says:

        Public option is doable under reconciliation. All of the regulations and systematic changes are not doable under reconciliation. The Senate bill is far from perfect, but better than what we currently have. Reconciliation can improve the bill.

  18. ezdidit says:

    The elephant in that room:
    The utter failure of health insurance corporations as a paradigm for management of pooled risk. They have completely failed to
    1.) reduce medical costs,
    2.) cap their extraordinary profits or,
    3.) limit premiums to actual medical-loss ratios.

    And their profits have risen disproportionately higher than actual medical costs through higher premiums, rescission of benefits or cancellation of coverage to avoid paying benefits.

    That is a herd of elephants, and these behemoths won’t even be in the room!

    It is outrageous that they are not held accountable.

  19. WTFOver says:

    US fights for access to EU bank data

    The US government has initiated a diplomatic offensive against threatened moves by MEPs to block a deal that gives American intelligence agencies direct access to European bank data.

    The arrangements empower the US to track the flow of funds through the banking system by accessing information collected by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), which registers international money transfers.

    “The EU and US cannot afford to handicap our investigators by preventing access to key data that are valuable, legally obtainable and subject to scrupulous review and oversight,” wrote US treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart Levey in Europolitics, a specialist publication.

    However, many MEPs argue the scheme flouts privacy. “The fight against terrorism is a priority, but the EU cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over its citizens’ fundamental rights,” said Socialist group leader Martin Schulz, a German MEP.

  20. MadDog says:

    As KO and Ezra Klein are discussing right now on KO, here’s that House Repug Boehner/Cantor leadership “letter” they’re talking about.

    And why yes, surprise, surprise, it magically shows up only on Faux News.

    As bmaz/Captain Renault would say: “I’m shocked, shocked.”

    • MadDog says:

      From the letter:

      “…Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people…”

      • MadDog says:

        And via the site, a more blatant Party of No political tone to the letter:

        Dear Mr. Emanuel:

        Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over so that we can develop a bill that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people?

        Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan way, does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation? As the President has noted recently, Democrats continue to hold large majorities in the House and Senate, which means they can attempt to pass a health care bill at any time through the reconciliation process. Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people…

        An important note is that all of the bolding was Boehner’s.

      • PJEvans says:

        “…Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people…”

        Fixed it for them.
        (I don’t think they give a rat’s ass about ‘the American people’.)

      • Sand says:

        Wouldn’t surprise me if Ben Nelson’s name is on the letter — to prove how ‘bi-partisan’ they are…

  21. mls3 says:

    you do realize, don’t you, that Ezra Klein is saying that eliminating the tax preference for health insurance would be a good thing, policy-wise?