Policy Documents

Obamacare's Last Stand

Benjamin Domenech –

President Obama unveiled what may be his last ditch attempt to present a government-run health care proposal that can pass the Senate and House this morning in Washington, just a few days in advance of a health care summit where he will likely attempt to cast his opponents on Capitol Hill as obstructionists. The proposal is available to read on the White House website.

Unlike prior bills introduced, this plan is owned by the president alone -- it is not the result of a Senate or House approach, and as such, can honestly be referred to as "Obamacare."

A few items of note from the legislation:

  • Obama's plan costs an estimated $950 Billion over the next decade (that's more than the Senate bill, but less than the public option House bill).
  • It delays taxes on "Cadillac" insurance plans until 2018, in a clear bonus for union supporters.
  • It raises proposed Medicare payroll tax on higher incomes, doubling the existing tax and including a marriage penalty.
  • The plan includes premium caps, a form of price control that is designed to play on the unpopular rate hikes from insurers.

As The Hill reports this morning, there are few aspects of this bill that seem at all aimed at achieving bipartisan unity:

But the proposals — few of which are new — lack any ideas aimed at wooing Republicans, who have expressed intense skepticism about Obama’s stated intention to reach out to them. Pfeiffer emphasized that the plan does not represent a compromise package negotiated between Obama and the Democratic leaders in Congress.

“This is the president’s proposal,” he said, adding that the compromises it contains were “informed by our discussions with the House and Senate leadership” after the Senate passed its version of the bill on Christmas Eve.

Like the Senate bill, the proposal does not include a government-run public option insurance program. The White House also does not seek to modify the Senate bill’s restrictions on abortion coverage.

Much of this proposal is just about framing -- more political change than policy change -- and attaching Republicans at the hip to insurers who, ironically, had supported the health care legislation before the House and Senate, and forcing them to make the perhaps unpopular case against government price controls. It is unclear whether there will be enough support on Capitol Hill for the reconciliation process, which would likely be necessary.

We'll have further updates on this proposal today at Health Care News.