Healthier Rx For Health Care Reform

Just weeks after the Establishment put health care reform legislation on life support, it's out of bed and as healthy as ever -- a classic case of Daily Divination bias, where long-term trends are foretold on the basis of a few day's worth of media churn.  The full score of the Senate HELP committee bill was released by the Gods at CBO, and lo' and behold -- the bill would increase coverage significantly and would be much less expensive than previously thought.

Congressional Democrats no longer seem panicked about including a public health insurance option, and although the scope is quite open to debate, both Sen. Chuck Schumer, a key mover on health legislation in the Senate, and Rep. Henry Waxman, THE key mover in the House, are converging on the basic metaphor to use in crafting a public option -- it has to be a real option, it has to "keep insurance companies honest" but it cannot lead to a single-payer system. Schumer told the Huffington Post that the Senate will pass a bill with a public option; Waxman told me that it would be hard to pass a health care bill without one. (One idea that's being floated: allow private insurance plans to somehow link up with the public option, a sort of a hybrid insurance plan that would rely on government subsidies for catastrophic and chronic care and rely on private insurance to fund the rest. Since private plans partner with Medicare and Medicaid, this isn't terribly far-fetched, although it's not at all fleshed out.)

On the house side, Waxman told me today that Senate and House health legislation writers had agreed to use the same language on some (though not all) key provisions, which will make reconciling a House and Senate bill much easier.