Friday, December 11, 2009

Reid's massive compromise - not so fast

Earlier this week, Harry Reid tried to drum up a veneer of inevitability by announcing that there had been a breakthrough great compromise that the liberals and moderate Democrats agreed to. It was so wonderful that they just couldn't release the details. But as the outline of what they were planning leaked out, criticism grew of their ideas to lower the age for Medicare down to 55. Anyone who knows anything about the Medicare program knows that it is going broke and is going to present us with some serious choices in a few years if Medicare isn't going to swallow up the entire budget.

The Washington Post weighed in with some inside-the-beltway skepticism.
Presumably, the expanded Medicare program would pay Medicare rates to providers, raising the question of the spillover effects on a health-care system already stressed by a dramatic expansion of Medicaid. Will providers cut costs -- or will they shift them to private insurers, driving up premiums? Will they stop taking Medicare patients or go to Congress demanding higher rates? Once 55-year-olds are in, they are not likely to be kicked out, and the pressure will be on to expand the program to make more people eligible. The irony of this late-breaking Medicare proposal is that it could be a bigger step toward a single-payer system than the milquetoast public option plans rejected by Senate moderates as too disruptive of the private market.
No wonder liberals were celebrating that this compromise would be a highway to a public option.

Soon the doctors and hospital organizations raised holy heck with the Senate Democrats. They're not getting reimbursed sufficiently as it is by Medicare. They certainly didn't want to expand the program to bring in another decade's worth of enrollees. And now it seems that Tuesday's grand compromise has turned into Friday's flopperoo.
Senate Democrats are considering changing a proposed expansion of Medicare to address complaints from doctors and hospitals and defray costs for consumers, officials said Thursday, two days after party leaders hailed it as part of a breakthrough for health care.

Under the plan, uninsured individuals ages 55 to 64 could purchase coverage under Medicare. The expansion is part of a compromise for dropping a full-blown national government-run insurance plan from the legislation that Democrats and the White House hope to push through the Senate by Christmas.

The American Hospital Association and American Medical Association have both criticized the proposed Medicare expansion since it was announced Tuesday night, saying the program pays health care providers less than private insurance companies, and warning against increasing the number of patients.

"We are trying to find a solution," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters in the Capitol, saying that the groups had raised legitimate concerns.
And now Olympia Snowe is expressing her displeasure with Reid's deal. And Joe Lieberman is off the reservation.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said Thursday that she does not support the Medicare buy-in because it would “aggravate an already-serious problem” with the program – the low reimbursement rates for hospitals and doctors.

“I have serious concerns,” Snowe told reporters. “I just think that is the wrong direction to take.”

Snowe said she could not see a way for Senate Democratic leaders to even tweak the proposal to win her vote.

“I can’t see it,” said Snowe, who met Wednesday with President Barack Obama. “I am talking to a lot of my providers this afternoon and I know they are mighty unhappy.”

Asked if it meant she would oppose the health care bill, Snowe said: "Among other issues. There would be other issues. That is part of it."

Another key undecided moderate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Vt.), said Thursday that his level of unease with the Medicare buy in is also rising.

“I am increasingly troubled about the proposal,” Lieberman said. “I am worried about what impact it will have on the Medicare program’s fiscal viability and also what effect it will have on the premiums paid by people benefiting from Medicare now and whether the whole thing is viable. If you separate it from Medicare, it will be an extremely expensive program.”
So Reid now has egg on his face. He produced this grandiose promise of a breakthrough deal but it turned out that he didn't have his peeps on board and the thing is falling apart day by day. The Democrats must be thrilled to have their leader exposed as making promises and announcements that can't be backed up. Not a sign of strength, is it?

I guess it will be time for Harry Reid to return to the Senate floor and blame the Republicans for the slavery and segregation as well as their intransigence in somehow keeping the 60 Senate Democrats from being able to make a deal amongst themselves.