The Unfolding Health Care Policy Fiasco
My, but isn’t this interesting?
Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.
The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.
A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”
Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.
Young Ezra Klein tells us that this really isn’t that big a deal; all that he says has happened is that a Republican amendment “has possibly created a problem in which the federal government can’t make its normal contribution to the insurance premiums of congressional staffers.” As a consequence, there is a need for “some method through which the federal government can keep making its current contribution to the health insurance of congressional staffers.” Klein sums up:
This isn’t, in other words, an effort to flee Obamacare. It’s an effort to fix a drafting error that prevents the federal government from paying into insurance exchanges on behalf of congressional staffers who got caught up in a political controversy.
Anyone who believes that this issue can be dismissed and dispensed with because of the “drafting error” excuse ought to read Megan McArdle, who points out that the “drafting error” excuse has been worn out, and that it may now be time to consider the entire health care reform bill “one long drafting error.” Of course, we would have known that earlier if we didn’t take Nancy Pelosi’s advice to pass the bill in order to find out what is in it.
In the meantime, get ready for increases in health insurance premiums. And don’t think for a moment that those increases will be limited to Maryland.