One by one, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pitched overboard the fondest government-run health care ideas of many Democrats.
The “public option” — a major intrusion of government into the private health insurance business — is history.
So apparently is the “trigger” that would have allowed that intrusion if — wink, wink — private insurers didn’t meet some standard that the government set.
Gone, too, is the notion of allowing some Americans to buy into Medicare at age 55, 10 years earlier than everyone else gains coverage. That proposal was a huge and awesomely expensive down payment on government-run health care for all. (Or as Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said: “It’s the mother of all public options. Never mind the camel’s nose, we’ve got his head and neck under the tent.”)
Good riddance, all.
The Senate is scaling back its ambitions for health care reform, way back, and that’s a good thing.
That’s also a raw political calculation. Reid needed 60 votes to shut off a threatened Republican filibuster.
And so he had to toss out all the ballast he could to reach the magic number.
Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama lent a hand. He urged Senate Democrats to close ranks and approve a deal. He said lawmakers were “on the precipice of an achievement that has eluded Congresses and presidents for generations.”
But Congress needed a reality check, not a presidential shove. While lawmakers have been busy plugging in and tossing out proposals like jigsaw pieces, many Americans have grown wary. In a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, only 22 percent of Americans said they thought the health care proposals in Congress would help them or their families. That’s 22 percent!
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday echoed those fears: 53 percent of those polled envisioned higher costs for themselves if the proposed changes go into effect. Yet only 37 percent thought their quality of care would improve under a new system.
That’s no groundswell for dramatic change. Just the opposite. Remember that $1 trillion-plus House health reform bill with a public option and other bells and whistles, passed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hosannas in early November? It’s DOA.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty about who’s for the latest Senate bill and who’s not. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to say how expensive it will be. And we’ve yet to see the final version that includes all the deals that Reid cut to reach the 60 votes.
But we do understand that the public option is dead, and that means Reid may not be able to count on every Democrat. In October, Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., wrote: “I will vote against any plan that doesn’t include a public option.” Burris may soon get a chance to be good to his word.
Senate Democrats are scrambling to pass a bill by Christmas. They’ve created an artificial rush. Voters aren’t giddy about getting a gift from the Senate. Far from it.