Ted Kennedy Brings a Giant Stick To The Health Care Fight
It has been reported by the Washington Post and Bloomberg.com, that Ted Kennedy plans to release an outline of his health care reform legislation next week, with the bill to be marked up soon afterwards. If reports are correct, this is not a bipartisan bill negotiated behind closed doors. It is a very strong, progressive piece of legislation -- the kind of bill which fills the grassroots with hope and the for-profit insurance companies with fear.
It is a bill which would never overcome a filibuster in the Senate; a bill Obama might be able to force through using reconciliation if he is willing to spend a lot of political capital. It is a bold and clear warning to the health insurance industry. If you fight the compromise we offer, we will let the progressives write a bill you will hate.
From reporting I've seen, Kennedy's bill contains not one but two very strong progressives proposals, either of which the for-profit health insurance industry is sure to fight tooth and nail. Kennedy's bill is reported to contain a strong public health insurance option, based on Medicare, and a very large expansion of Medicaid. Families making up to 500% of the federal poverty level ($110,250 a year) would be eligible for Medicaid. Individuals would also be able to buy a public plan managed like Medicare.
The goal of many progressives is to allow Americans to free themselves from for-profit health insurance. Either proposal alone could do just that. It would take a lot of grassroot lobbying and pressure from the president to keep even one of them. I suspect both proposals will be heavily watered down to create a compromised bipartisan bill. This is not likely to be the final bill; this is the stick which Democrats will use to threaten anyone who is unwilling to play ball.