What If Health Care Reform Doesn't Pass? The Kansas City Star If Congress drops the health care ball now that it's become a hot potato, nothing will get done. And the nation will be much the worse for it (Barb Shelley, 1/18). What Does It Mean To 'Start Over' In Healthcare Reform? Los Angeles Times In sum, it's hard to obtain the improvements in the system that seemingly everyone wants without a comprehensive (and costly) effort that includes healthcare delivery and reimbursement reforms, an insurance mandate, and new pools and subsidies for individual buyers. Otherwise, you're either tinkering around the edges or creating powerful and destructive new incentives to game the system (Jon Healey, 1/18).
Transparency in the legislative process is on the decline, The Associated Press reports. "Democrats are refusing to open to the public the end-stage negotiations on how the government is going to change the delivery of health care. And it's not just on the high-profile health care bill; the trend on much legislation is to shut the door and keep the minority party, cable TV and other media on the outside." In the past two decades, since C-SPAN began broadcasting congressional meetings, "leaders from both parties have held fewer and fewer conference meetings, or reduced their significance to photo ops" (Abrams, 1/19). On the other side of the Hill's transparency issue, attention has turned in recent months to so-called "political intelligence gatherers, " Politico reports.
President Barack Obama has plenty of reasons to hope Congress has completed its health overhaul debate by the end of the month, including: the just-scheduled State of the Union address on Jan. 27, a Feb. 1 deadline for submitting the 2011 federal budget to Congress, and flagging poll numbers. Bloomberg reports the President will deliver his first State of the Union address to Congress this month as lawmakers work to finish health-care legislation and the nation's unemployment rate remains at 10 percent." The speech will "lay out his vision for the country in an election year with 37 seats in the Senate at stake as well as all 435 in the House of Representatives" (Johnston and Funningen, 1/19).
The Washington Post : "Unless Democrats can thread a very narrow legislative needle, Republican Scott Brown's upset victory over Martha Coakley in Massachusetts on Tuesday could lead to the collapse of a health-care bill that, only weeks ago, appeared close to becoming law." Though Democratic leaders have tried, in public, to be positive that the health bill "could remain on course, " there are increasing concerns that moderates will now "begin to back away from the legislation, fearing its political effects." Democrats met briefly after Coakley's concession and lawmakers said "they will spend the coming days considering an array of long-shot scenarios, each with serious downsides.
Democratic leaders on Tuesday vowed to pass a health care reform bill despite losing a Senate seat in the Massachusetts special election to state Sen. Scott Brown (R), CQ Today reports. Before the election results were announced, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "We will have a health care bill. Regardless of what happens in Massachusetts, we will make it happen" (Armstrong/Wayne, CQ Today, 1/19). Brown, who claims to support abortion rights, opposes what critics call "partial-birth abortion." He has said he would give Senate Republicans the 41st vote needed to block health reform legislation, the Washington Post reports (Romano, Washington Post, 1/20).
Health shares rose Tuesday as traders considered the prospect that a Republican victory in the special Senate election in Massachusetts could jeopardize the health reform legislation. The Boston Globe reports that "traders placed bets that the outcome of an election in Massachusetts would make it harder for President Obama to overhaul health care. ... Rising health care stocks led the market higher as the prospect of a logjam in Washington eased concerns that profits at companies like insurers and drug makers would suffer" (Paradis, 1/20). BusinessWeek/Bloomberg : "The potential demise of the legislation cheered investors who feared the plan may limit revenue in the health-care industry, said Takeru Ogihara, who helps oversee $27 billion as chief strategist at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co.
The Wall Street Journal reports that "voters are less optimistic about his ability to succeed and no longer clearly favor keeping the Democrats in control of Congress, according to the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The trends point to an increasingly difficult political climate for President Obama as he hopes to push his domestic agenda beyond health care this year and preserve his party's majorities in the House and Senate. ... The loss in Massachusetts] may not be an anomaly. Nationally, the new survey finds, voters now are evenly split over which party they hope will run Capitol Hill after the November elections - the first time Democrats haven't had the edge on that question since December 2003.
The Greenville (S.C.) News : "The Massachusetts Senate race for Ted Kennedy's old seat was a sign that the current health care reform bill should be scrapped, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said. .... Graham said the Obama administration tried to push a bill through that isn't bipartisan and that the Massachusetts race illustrates the nation's desire to go back to the drawing board on reform. He issued a warning that any effort to pass a bill through the Senate will result in 'holy hell'" (Osby, 1/20). "Senate Republicans are more committed than ever to opposing President Barack Obama's health care agenda, citing a GOP victory in the Massachusetts special election as validation of their political strategy and policy course, " Roll Call reports.
A new poll of registered voters in New York found that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) would decisively defeat former Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.) in the primary for the U.S. Senate seat, Politico reports. Last year, Gov. David Paterson (D) named Gillibrand, a former U.S. House member, as the temporary replacement to fill the Senate seat previously occupied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. According to the new Siena Research Institute poll, 41% of the 806 respondents said they support Gillibrand, compared with 17% who support Ford. Labor organizer Jonathan Tasini placed third with 5%. Support for Ford jumped 10 percentage points since December 2009.
What About Costs? The Wall Street Journal Many health experts are rightly skeptical that the current health-care reform legislation will lower spending growth, despite its many promising pilot projects and proposals (Mark McClellan, 1/20). But Health Reform Still Critical The Boston Globe Yesterday's results need not -- and must not -- stop the fundamental reform of the nation's health insurance system (1/20). A Good Start The Wall Street Journal Any major effort at health reform can be likened to a freight train parked at a station and being loaded with cargo. One can put too little cargo on the train, in which case it is a wasted effort. One can also load too much on it, in which case the train won't move (Uwe E.