Senate Democrats Still Quietly Talking about Reconciliation for Health Care Bill

The American people by a vast majority don’t want a government takeover of our health care system. They know that our system, albeit imperfect, is the best in the world. In spite of this, the Democrats’ dream of imposing government run health care is so close they can taste it, so they are, naturally, conflicted. Should they drop their plan of a government run system and stay in the good graces of their constituents, or should they go for it alone without any Republicans, which would install their dream and thrill their base but may very well drive them out of office by angry constituents.

They are still thinking about going for it, as we learn from The New York Times:

With bipartisan health care negotiations teetering, Democrats are talking reluctantly — and very, very quietly — about exploiting a procedural loophole they planted in this year’s budget to skirt Republican filibusters against a health care overhaul.

They are talking reluctantly because using the tactic, officially known as reconciliation, would present a variety of serious procedural and substantive obstacles that could result in a piecemeal health bill. And they are whispering because the mere mention of reconciliation touches partisan nerves and could be viewed as a threat by the three Republicans still engaged in the delicate talks, causing them to collapse.

Yet with the discussions so far failing to produce an agreement, Democrats are exploring whether they could use the tactic as a last resort to secure a health care victory if they have to go it alone. The answer: It would not be pretty and it would not be preferable, but it could be doable.

“This is tough stuff,” said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, “but, yes, it is more than theoretically possible.”

This is a very risky proposition politically. It would also most likely mean that health care would be passed piece by piece instead of in one fell swoop. But it is doable, as the article says. And implementing a bill piecemeal could be a better tack for Democrats since what they ultimately want is a government takeover, which the American people don’t want. This could incrementally ease the American people into that takeover, which means we must continue the pressure and not become complacent.

On a related note, The Corner links to a post at National Center for Policy Analysis that outlines the 10 surprising things you may not know about American health care. Here’s the first five:

Medical care in the United States is derided as miserable compared to health care systems in the rest of the developed world. Economists, government officials, insurers and academics alike are beating the drum for a far larger government rôle in health care. Much of the public assumes their arguments are sound because the calls for change are so ubiquitous and the topic so complex. However, before turning to government as the solution, some unheralded facts about America’s health care system should be considered.

Fact No. 1: Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.[1] Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

Fact No. 2: Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.[2] Breast cancer mortality is 9 percent higher, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher and colon cancer mortality among men is about 10 percent higher than in the United States.

Fact No. 3: Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries.[3] Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit are taking statins, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease. By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons and 17 percent of Italians receive them.

Fact No. 4: Americans have better access to preventive cancer screening than Canadians.[4] Take the proportion of the appropriate-age population groups who have received recommended tests for breast, cervical, prostate and colon cancer:

  • Nine of 10 middle-aged American women (89 percent) have had a mammogram, compared to less than three-fourths of Canadians (72 percent).
  • Nearly all American women (96 percent) have had a pap smear, compared to less than 90 percent of Canadians.
  • More than half of American men (54 percent) have had a PSA test, compared to less than 1 in 6 Canadians (16 percent).
  • Nearly one-third of Americans (30 percent) have had a colonoscopy, compared with less than 1 in 20 Canadians (5 percent).

Fact No. 5: Lower income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians. Twice as many American seniors with below-median incomes self-report “excellent” health compared to Canadian seniors (11.7 percent versus 5.8 percent). Conversely, white Canadian young adults with below-median incomes are 20 percent more likely than lower income Americans to describe their health as “fair or poor.”[5]

Read the other five. These facts are compelling. I have to say that #10 was particularly enlightening. It’s common for people to have a grass is greener mentality, but Americans need to be reminded of how much better our health care system is than other countries’ health care systems.

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