WASHINGTON – Democrats in charge of Congress are beginning to reveal their plans for reforming the nation’s health care system. Expect hot debate on the issue this summer.
Supporters say they have two make-or-break months. President Obama gave Congress the job of drafting a health care overhaul and the broad outlines are taking shape.
President Obama made clear his hard sell is ahead, to revamp health care.
President Obama said “about which I will have more to say in the coming days, which will both cut costs and improve care.”
The Democrats’ plan is starting to take shape: people would have to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. For those who can’t get it through work, many Democrats want people to have a choice between private plans and a public one, subsidized by the government.
Republicans say no to that.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said “it’s a big problem because it leads inevitably to a Washington takeover of healthcare.”
Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said “we are opposed to a government plan, and the sooner it’s off the table the better.”
Backers say it’s the best way to keep private insurance costs down.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer said “left alone, they will not provide the kind of low cost full health care that many many many Americans need.”
On how to pay for the changes, Senate Republicans demanded Democrats fill in the blanks.
South Dakota Senator John Thune said “we haven’t seen a bill yet, we haven’t a score yet, and we haven’t seen a way to pay for it.”
One key Senate Democrat now backs taxing some employer-provided health benefits. That would require President Obama to reverse a campaign pledge. He now promises to squeeze more savings from Medicare, to pay for the reforms.
Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, said
“we are going to be deficit-neutral even over five or 10 years”
That’s if a majority in Congress can agree on a health care system overhaul.
And that’s a big if. One Democratic pollster said if it works expect the political equivalent of an Indiana Jones movie, where backers slip through a series of narrow escapes.