Does Obama Have a ‘Plan B’ or Not?

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Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

We are now only moments away (!!!!) from the start of the most anticipated health-care-related kabuki theater of the year. Though the whole summit is predicated on finding some kind of elusive bi-partisan compromise, Democrats have already stated their willingness to go it alone on health-care reform, so today really doesn't matter all that much. But what if the Democrats can't even muster 50 votes in the Senate, and a majority in the House, a fairly plausible scenario? Will health-care reform finally die? Not necessarily, says a report in today's Wall Street Journal — Obama has a Plan B.

According to the story, Obama's backup plan is a scaled-down approach that would cover only 15 million uninsured.

It would do that by requiring insurance companies to allow people up to 26 years old to stay on their parents' health plans, and by modestly expanding two federal-state health programs, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, one person said. The cost to the federal government would be about one-fourth the price tag for the broader effort ....


Does this mean that Obama is expecting to fail? Not at all, actually, says the Washington Post's Ezra Klein. He claims that "Plan B" was simply one of the options laid out a while back for what a pare- down bill would look like, but it was decided to continue on with the comprehensive proposal instead.

At this point, I could quote some White House sources swearing up and down that that's all this is. A vestigial document that's being blown out of proportion by a conservative paper interested in an agenda-setting story. They're furious over this story. None of the quotes are sourced to the White House — not even anonymously — raising questions that the whole thing is sabotage. But it hardly matters. There's no Plan B at this point in the game, and most everyone knows it.


Klein later notices that a quote from a "senior White House official" has been added to a revised version of the story, one that confirms his take on "Plan B." "Senior White House officials were making a lot of calls last night, and the article was edited to include one of them," he writes. But while the White House is working to quell speculation about a Plan B, a leading House member was on CNBC this morning doing the opposite. Maryland's Steny Hoyer, the House's second-ranking Democrat, said he thinks "the president's open to" a scaled-back plan if the comprehensive bill fails.

"Obviously the president has indicated he wants to have a comprehensive bill," Hoyer said. "But the president, like all of us, understands that in a democracy, you do the possible."


In the end, it seems as if the health-care Plan B is being used a lot like the actual emergency contraception Plan B. It's an option that's out there, but you don't really expect to use it — until you're forced to by emergency circumstances. In this case, that emergency would be the prospect of utter Democratic ineffectiveness giving birth to a Republican tidal wave in November.

Obama Readies a Fallback Health-Care Proposal [WSJ]
There's no plan B for health-care reform [Ezra Klein/WP]
Hoyer: Obama open to more modest health bill as fallback [Hill]