Health Care Reform: A Refresher, Part Three

The Public Option was the biggest story nobody understood in 2009. When we last checked in on the debate in late October, the scaled back government alternative to private insurance, a tiny initiative that would only have covered 4% of the population, was the central piece in the health care fight. The Public Option was the one factual item in the GOP campaign to derail meaningful health care reform, and it was the political football Harry Reid was left to carry over the goal-line before Christmas.

President Obama wanted a bill on his desk to go with the stockings hung by the fireplace with care. By late fall, the President was deeply engaged in the health care battle. In a departure from his earlier strategy of setting broad parameters for legislation that the Congress would finalize, Mr. Obama jumped into the fray headfirst with a stirring speech before a joint session of Congress. You might remember that speech; Joe Wilson passionately (and erroneously) yelled “You Lie!” at the President that evening. I have often imagined the consequences had James Clyburn done the same to Ronald Reagan.

After Max Baucus wasted precious weeks trying to create the illusion of bipartisan support, Senate Leader Reid was left to try and piece together a bill that could capture all 60 members who caucused with Democrats. In a majority rule nation, the Republican Party had decided after Mr. Obama’s election that¬† no Democratic bill would come to an up and down vote. As topline polling numbers for health care reform declined, conservadems in the Senate like Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, and Blanche Lincoln used the public option as a tool to leverage concessions from Reid. It never seemed to matter that the American public, in those same polls, consistently supported the Public Option.

It also never mattered that a consistent 10% of Americans began to oppose the legislation because it was not liberal enough; the topline numbers were enough for the GOP to push the narrative that reform was being “shoved down America’s throat”. This kind of vitriol fit naturally with the rage and ignorance-based Tea Party; the democratic election of Mr. Obama and the Democrats, and subsequent legislation were both framed as illegitimate power plays. As time wound down in December, and Christmas approached, a final compromise was crafted that seemed to have the votes. Instead of a new public insurance bureaucracy, Americans in certain demographics (55+, small business, and poor families) would be able to pay for Medicare.

Everbody was happy with the compromise…everybody but insurance shill Joe Lieberman. At the last minute, he went on Fox News Sunday to blow up the compromise. Eventually, the Public Option was stripped out of the bill, and enticements for Nelson, Landrieu, and Lincoln were put in. As Christmas approached, the Senate was held by Reid in marathon sessions until all of the procedural obstacles of the Republicans could be overcome. When the measure finally passed the Senate, progressives breathed a sigh of relief…it was over.

Or so they thought.¬† In the frantic run up to the final vote, the Democratic nominee for Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusettes was frittering away a once monstrous poll advantage to upstart Republican Scott Brown. Nobody realized the danger Martha Coakley was in until it was too late, and Brown won the seat. The Democrats, without 60 votes, could not hope to get the legislation through a conference committee and to the President’s desk. Health care reform was dead.

Or so the Republicans thought. Every member of Fox News’ crack pundit team announced emphatically that reform was dead…health care had been Obama’s Waterloo. Then insurance companies inexplicably picked that moment to dramatically raise rates in Ohio; the President, sensing an opportunity, swung into action. He was back on the campaign trail, and he did not disappoint. Reid and Speaker Pelosi rallied their troops in parallel, seeing the opportunity to use budget reconciliation as a method to pass the bill without further debate. As February rolled into March, conservative talkers and politicians began, in utter shock and bemusement, to predict the imminent passage of reform. A historical health care bill would pass after all.

Or so the Democrats thought. Bart Stupak and the Pro-Life Democrats revived their strange objection to the bill on the possibility that it might, in some convoluted way, allow federal funds to be used for abortions. Not until the day of the vote did the Stupak Block come to an agreement with the President that cleared the way for their votes. With a promise in hand for an Executive Order enforcing the Hyde Amendment on federal funds and abortions, the Stupak Block joined their peers in passing the Reconciliation measure on March 22, 2010. Four days later, the Senate passed a series of fixes to the legislation that included the stripping away of many of the enticements given to the conservadems.

President Obama’s signature made the contentious bill the law of the land. The process was finally over…or so we thought. The rule writing, battles over language, and implementation of health care reform form the basis for The Pigeon Post exclusive Health Care Reform: A Refresher Part Four.

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One Response to “Health Care Reform: A Refresher, Part Three”

  • Kendra says:

    Mike, your summation of this turbulant time was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think you took a fair stance and presented all sides very well. Nice job.

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Animated Balls: Election 2012

Episode 1: It's Hard to Choose Just One

Episode 2: Occupy Wall Street

Episode 3: 999! The Cain Train to Prosperity

Episode 4: Small Government

Episode 5: Newt is Forgiven

Episode 6: A Candidate with Big Balls

Episode 7: Why We Must Elect Rick!

Episode 8: Don't Make Me Use the "S" Word!

Episode 9: Santorum & Obamaville

Episode 10: Settle for Mitt!

Episode 12: Austerity and Obama's Debt!

Episode 13: From My Cold, Dead Hands!

Episode 14: Ryan is a Bold Choice for VP!

Episode 15: Mitt Romney's Taxes

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Episode 21: Grover, the NRA, and the GOP

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