As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tries desperately to placate Joe Lieberman and a stray Maine GOP Senator without losing any Democrats in support of a health care bill, the progressive wing of the party is being told by Howard Dean not to support the bill.
In an op-ed in Thursday's Washington Post, Dean writes:
If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current health-care bill. Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.
Lucky for Harry Reid, Dean is not in the Senate. And maybe things could still be fixed, as he writes later in his opinion piece:
Improvements can still be made in the Senate, and I hope that Senate Democrats will work on this bill as it moves to conference. If lawmakers are interested in ensuring that government affordability credits are spent on health-care benefits rather than insurers' salaries, they need to require state-based exchanges, which act as prudent purchasers and select only the most efficient insurers. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) offered this amendment during the Finance Committee markup, and Democrats should include it in the final legislation. A stripped-down version of the current bill that included these provisions would be worth passing.
Some political analysts, like NBC's First Read, are speculating that this is payback by Dr. Dean against elements of the White House who he's always been at odds with (hello, Rahm Emanuel!). Dean was one of the highest profile members in the Democratic Party who was not offered a job with the administration after the election last year.
As Christmas beckons, the White House's strategy on health care is being dissected closely, and Chief of Staff Emanuel you can be sure will receive the major share of criticism (next to Barack Obama, of course) if health care doesn't pass.
Oh, and by the way, there's a new poll out that shows the majority of Americans are buying into what Dean is selling, saying it's better not to have any bill at this time rather than what is considered even by supporters to have a lot of flaws in it.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey shows 44% of Americans said it is better to pass no plan at all, compared with 41% of Americans who said it's better to pass the plan. Just two months ago, the same poll showed 5% less, or 39%, preferring the no bill option. The Journal reports that uninsured people are among those who have grown less supportive of the plan.
Meanwhile, Bill Nelson's office is denying reports about a deal saving some Medicare Advantage plans from budget cuts would apply only to three South Florida (re:Democratic) counties.
According to the St. Pete Times,
"That is totally false," said Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin. "It is clearly a scare tactic by a minority of folks on the fringes of the debate, on the far right."
Nelson successfully tacked on an amendment to the sprawling Senate health care reform bill that would prevent cuts to Medicare Advantage plans offered in high cost areas — particularly Florida but also New York and California.