Reid Defies Snowe, Chooses Helping Americans Over Veneer Of Bipartisanship

I'm glad to see that Senate Majority Leader has decided to be a real leader and defy Olympia Snowe (R-ME). There is no reason to have a 60 member caucus if you are unable or unwilling to use it to fulfill the top priority of the Democratic party with the best reform bill possible. It is long past time to dethrone Empress Snowe.

It is important that the Senate bill going into conference committee contain a public option, even if it is one far weaker than it should be. But the bigger news seems to be that Snowe will no longer drive the bill, since she will not support a bill with a public option. Her demand that the bill contain a trigger was only one of her many ill conceived proposals.

I hope that including the opt-out public option is just the first of the positive changes which are made because Reid no longer needs to shape the bill to meet Snowe's every whim. Unfortunately, it seems the Senate bill with still contain the very stupid free rider provision, which Snowe wanted, instead of a mild employer mandate. This is a provision that desperately needs to be improved going forward.

There are areas that should be revisited now that Snowe is no longer on board: Strengthening the exchange so that it can negotiate to help individuals get a better bargain on their health insurance is a critical improvement previously opposed by Snowe. John Kingsdale, who runs the current Massachusetts exchange, said that if the exchanges remain how Snowe wants them, it will be a “policy disaster.”

I would like to see the “national plans,” which would gut a state's ability to properly regulate health insurance, revisited. Increasing the actuarial value of the “bronze level” (lowest minimum qualified insurance plans) and expanding Cantwell's “basic health plan” proposal were both ideas opposed by Snowe, but can ideally now be improved. Strengthening the new ombudsman's office and setting a minimum medical loss ratio for health insurance are two additional changes that should be made.

If Reid can convince his caucus to vote as a bloc on cloture, it would be a display of true leadership. Losing Snowe, and being able to pass a bill with only a simple majority, would be the single best development for health care reform yet--far better news than even the addition of a very weak public option with an opt-out. A bill that can pass the Senate without Snowe's vote will likely be a much better bill in the end. Reid has laid down a good marker today, now he needs to deliver.

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