On Monday, the White House released its plan for healthcare reform, which resembles the Senate bill with additional concessions for liberals and labor unions. Tomorrow President Obama will hold a televised healthcare summit. Obama is billing the summit as a last-ditch attempt to solicit Republican ideas for healthcare reform. In fact, he’s hoping to give the GOP enough rope to hang itself.
It takes two…
As Katrina vanden Huevel argues in The Nation, bipartisanship takes two parties, but the Republicans have refused to negotiate unless healthcare reform starts over from scratch. That’s not bipartisanship, that’s showboating. President Obama is giving the Republicans one last chance to waste the entire country’s time so that he can point to the sorry spectacle and say, "Look what they made us do."
In other words, the White House has finally accepted what progressives have been saying for months: there’s no way to pass an acceptable healthcare reform without using the budget reconciliation process to circumvent the filibuster.
What’s in the White House plan?
What does the White House want for healthcare reform? Kevin Drum of Mother Jones summarizes some highlights of the Obama plan: Increasing premium subsidies for working families; delaying the so-called "Cadillac" tax on expensive health plans and increasing the threshold at which plans are subject to tax; and empowering the Department of Health and Human Services to crack down on exploitative premium hikes, like the 39 percent increase recently announced by Anthem of California.
At AlterNet, Byard Duncan points to a lesser-known but important facet of the president’s plan, reviving the Indian Health Care Improvement Act–which would modernize the Indian healthcare system, which serves 1.9 million Native Americans and indigenous Alaskans, and not a moment too soon. American Indians are three times more likely to die of diabetes, 5 times more likely to die of alcoholism and six times more likely to die of tuberculosis than any other ethnic group. If Obama’s plan is approved, the Indian Health Service (IHS) will get a 13 percent budget increase to address these and other pressing issues.
Abortion continues to cast a shadow over healthcare reform. As Nick Baumann explains in Mother Jones, the original House healthcare bill passed by only five votes. Then Democrat Robert Wexler resigned and Democrat John Murtha of died. Republican Joseph Cao voted for the House bill only because he liked the Stupak abortion funding ban, which is no longer operative. Bart Stupak and his coalition of antichoice Democrats supported healthcare reform last time around in exchange for their notorious amendment. Nobody knows how many of them Speaker Nancy Pelosi can keep in the fold. At this point, she has the counterintuitive advantage of having nothing to offer them.
The Senate’s abortion language can’t be modified through reconciliation for procedural reasons. The Stupack Pack’s bluff has been called: Either they’ll kill healthcare reform out of spite, or they’ll fall into line. They could go either way.
Speaking of abortion, Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check reports that "Amelia," a young pregnant woman in Nicaragua, is being denied chemotherapy because it might hurt her fetus. Amelia’s doctors say she needs an abortion, but all abortion is illegal in Nicaragua. Nicaraguan women’s groups are urging people to write to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and Nicaraguan government officials to protest.