A Health Care Bill We Can Believe In?

Personal Health

The chairmen of three committees in the House of Representatives announced yesterday that their committees had jointly crafted a health reform bill -- one that includes a public plan for insuring people who have been shut out of the system. As the The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein notes, this is something just short of a miracle:


Three separate committees -- Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor -- have come together on one bill. This is an incredible achievement. If you read histories of the 1994 health-care reform fight, all of them have a substantial section on the committee crack-up: One passed a version of single-payer, another a variant of Bill Clinton's reform, another went further to the right. There was no unity.

There is unity now. And if it holds -- if the House of Representatives manages to pass this plan with a substantial majority of enthusiastic Democrats -- that significantly strengthens the House's hand in its eventual negotiations with the more fractious Senate. That's a big "if." But so too would have been the idea that three separate committees could cooperate on a bill of this size.

The bill includes a federally-funded expansion of Medicaid to people earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, and subsidies for those making up to 400 percent of the poverty level -- according to Klein, that’s about $43,320 for an individual and $88,200 for a family of four.

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