Senate health care plan to cost $848 billion

This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, New York Magazine writer John Heilemann urged Lieberman to follow up his taunts by literally filibustering on the Senate floor.

Meanwhile, Florida Senator Bill Nelson wrote a letter to the inspector general of the  Department of Health and Human Services asking for " an immediate and thorough investigation into drug industry pricing and recent increases, and the extent to which these increases may affect the Medicare and Medicaid programs."

That comes after a New York Times story published on Monday that reported that as health care legislation moves towards possible implementation, the pharmaceutical industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years.

Nelson said, "“I want to know if there’s a back-door move under way by the drug makers to recover some of the concessions they’ve promised for health care reform."

Also,the Obama administration yesterday distanced itself from the new, extremely controversial standards on breast cancer screening that were recommended this week by a federally appointed task force.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that government insurance programs would continue to cover routine mammograms for women starting at the age of 40.

Whatever one's opinion on the issue, it is not helping those who support health care reform, as critics are now saying that this is a form of rationing that would happen on a regular basis if the Democrats health care bill is passed and signed by the President.

Late last night the Congressional Budget Office released their scorecard on the Senate health care bill.  As the NY Times reports:

The official cost analysis released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shortly after 11 p.m. showed that Mr. Reid’s bill came in under the $900 billion goal suggested by Mr. Obama. But 24 million people would still be uninsured in 2019, the budget office said. About one-third of them would be illegal immigrants.

The Congressional Budget Office has said the House bill would reduce deficits by $109 billion over 10 years and cover 36 million people, but still leave 18 million uninsured in 2019.

Republicans and some independent budget analysts said, however, that the savings might not be fully achieved because they were based on unrealistic assumptions about a sustained increase in the productivity of health care providers and much slower growth in Medicare spending.

The Senate bill would include a public insurance plan - states could opt out of the plan by passing legislation (which Republicans in the Florida state legislature are already intending to do, via a Constitutional Amendment passed by the voters).

The bill does not go as far as the House did in limiting access to abortion.  As far as mandates, the Times reports that the bill would require most Americans to obtain health insurance, but would impose less onerous financial penalties on those who go without.

Major parts of the bill would not kick in until 2014, a year later than the House's plan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now has a task equally if not more challenging than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: collect 60 votes in the 100 member chamber any way he can.

It doesn't help when people like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are popping off about doing what ever's necessary to reject it.

Incidentally, if you're getting annoyed with the independent Senator from Connecticut, you must read Jonathan Alter's column in the current Newsweek.  Two priceless paragraphs on the man Alter calls "a putz":

The latest trouble started after Lieberman said on Fox that "as a matter of conscience," he would filibuster any health-care bill with a public option. Flashback: when he ran for reelection in 2006, Lieberman bragged about his MediChoice plan. It would "allow anybody in our country to buy into a national health-insurance pool like the federal-insurance pool we federal employees and members of Congress have." That sounds suspiciously like—ahem—the public option. What's changed?

Lieberman says it's the deficit. He now opposes any kind of public option because of cost. But the Congressional Budget Office reports the opposite—that a government-run option would save money by providing competition. Maybe the CBO is wrong. Maybe it won't save money. Who knows? So let's stipulate that we have no clue about how much any of this will cost, long term.

That sounds familiar. In Afghanistan we have no idea how much a "government takeover" will cost. Does that keep Lieberman from being gung-ho about escalation? No. Like other neocons, he thinks the deeper principle at stake trumps short-term cost calculations that are probably wrong anyway. But when it comes to health care, restraining hypothetical spending is suddenly a matter of conscience. Spare me. For Lieberman the only principle at stake is his stake in looking principled.


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