Sunday, May 31, 2009

NEWS UPDATE 5/30: THE KENNEDY PLAN? this weekend includes news of what it describes as Senator Ted Kennedy’s “reemergence” in the debate on health care reform with proposals that are distinctly to the left of those of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. It also includes the staff working paper being circulated among members of Kennedy’s Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and which presumably reflects Kennedy’s positions.

The Politico report and a parallel piece in the New York Times both emphasize significant policy differences between Kennedy and Baucus. The writers of the two pieces stress Kennedy’s liberalism and Baucus’ more moderate (or conservative, depending on one’s viewpoint) policies. The New York Times article focuses on the inclusion of a public plan as the key difference between the two senators, and notes Baucus’ committee efforts to develop compromises with ranking Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, which would presumably move the Senate Finance bill further to the right. So, what’s the truth?

Comparison of Finance Committee comments with those of the HELP Committee working paper does show differences, but in most cases these are ones of nuance. Much of the working paper reads like a campaign manifesto, and is correspondingly vague about details—and silent on financing. (What are “reasonable limits” for premium variations? Is there any real evidence of the effectiveness of “medical homes”?) On the other hand, it is also quite comprehensive in scope, including a major section on long-term care, something that has been almost totally ignored in the reform debate.

The HELP paper does call—as reported by Politico and the Times—for creation of a public plan. However, no specifics are provided, and the words used could be as applicable to the “weak” models suggested by Senator Charles Schumer and the New America Foundation’s Len Nichols as to the “strong” Medicare-based models suggested by liberals.

The conclusion: obviously there are differences between Senators Kennedy and Baucus and between their respective committees, (notwithstanding the two senators’ latest joint announcement but there is certainly no deal-breaker at this point.

1 comment:

  1. In reading the HELP paper, you should be aware that Sen. Kennedy's committee has no jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare, and taxes. So of course many parts of health reform would not be covered in the HELP proposal.