So What’s in This Senate Health-Care Bill?

By
Photo: Getty Images

Last night, Harry Reid released the long-awaited health-care bill, the one that the Senate will actually be voting on — except not really, because there's still plenty of opportunity to add in amendments, assuming it's allowed to proceed that far (a vote to let it do so may take place Saturday). Also, this bill is quite different than that of the House of Representatives, and the two will have to be reconciled at some point, creating a brand-new bill for everyone to vote on one more time. But for now, people are poring over the current bill, a massive 2,000-plus page piece of legislation that the Congressional Budget Office says will cost $849 billion over ten years, and cut $127 billion from the deficit over that time and $650 over the next decade. As we wrote last night, it will include a public option with a state opt-out clause, a mandate requiring individuals to be insured, and will cover 94 percent of Americans. But as might be expected of a 2,000-page bill, there is so much more to it than that! Here's what the political punditry thinks about the bill, as well as some of the things they're honing in on.

• Katharine Q. Seelye explores the Senate bill's language on abortion. Guess what: It's fairly ambiguous and open to interpretation. [Prescriptions/NYT]

• John McCormack has one interpretation: The bill "allows taxpayer-funding for abortions through the public health insurance plan and the health insurance exchanges" with language that "conceal[s] federal funding of abortion through an accounting gimmick." [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy believe that "the uninsured are likely to be the biggest winners from the Senate bill. It would offer subsidies to help people buy insurance and sharply expand Medicaid, the federal-state health-insurance program for the poor. Losers include the wealthy, who would have to pay higher Medicare payroll taxes, and people with especially generous health-insurance benefits, who would also pay a new tax." [WSJ]

• Jonathan Cohn says that whether you should be happy about the bill depends on your perspective. "If your standard for comparison is your ideal health care reform, then of course this will be disappointing," but the "more relevant comparison is to the House bill. And there the verdict is more mixed." "It's not huge progress," he says, but that's a necessity of appeasing conservative Democrats. [Treatment/New Republic]

• Ezra Klein puts the approximate $900 billion price tag in perspective. [Voices/WP]

• Allahpundit points out that "$127 billion over 10 years sounds like a lot until you remember that $176 billion was October’s monthly deficit." [Hot Air]

• Carrie Budoff Brown notes that the bill "pushes back implementation of major parts of the reform to 2014 — a change from 2013 under the Finance Committee bill," which "is bad news for lawmakers who will need to explain to constituents why the elements that have attracted the most attention — the public plan, the Medicaid expansion and the insurance exchanges — won't be available for four years." [Politico]

• Matthew Yglesias explains how Harry Reid kept the cost of reform down by "water[ing]-down the definition of 'insurance.'" [Think Progress]

• Yuval Levin calls the bill "a monstrosity" that "would do basically nothing to address the actual problem at the heart of our health care woes: rising costs." [Corner/National Review]

• David Herszenhorn notes the controversy surrounding a 5 percent tax "on elective cosmetic procedures that was quickly dubbed the 'botax.'" [Prescriptions/NYT]

• Steve Benen says that with a bill "crafted ... to address practically [all] of their concerns," moderate Democrats have "run out of excuses." "The notion that conservative Dems would filibuster their reform package is ridiculous," he says. "The notion that conservative Dems wouldn't even allow a debate on this bill is insane." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Brian Beutler expects conservative Democrats to "play nice" on procedural votes to get the bill to the floor. "Several weeks down the line, though, these same Democrats will be health care kingmakers." [TPM DC]

• Also, the Times has a nifty guide to comparing the House and Senate bills. [NYT]