Health Care’s Major Operations

Sept. 8
Congress returns from summer recess.

Sept. 15
Date Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus long aimed to wrap up his bipartisan working group’s proposal, allowing time for a conclusive vote before the end of the year (although he now says it’s flexible.) The Committee has already dropped the public-insurance option, probably in favor of as-yet ill-defined “co-ops.”

Sept. 30
Democrats in the House, working to merge the bills passed by three committees, plan to bring the legislation to a floor vote by the end of the month. Four out of seven “Blue Dogs” on the Energy and Commerce Committee were won over; with a similar level of conservative support the full House, reform will pass with about 235 votes, probably including a public option.

Oct. 9
Likely deadline for senators combining bills passed by Finance and the more liberal Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committees. An irreconcilable split over a public option would stop everything. Without 60, or even 50, votes, Senate liberals could press instead for other goals: increasing the amount of coverage that is minimally acceptable for insurance companies to offer, regulating how much insurers can vary their prices among consumers, and getting the government to subsidize coverage for people making up to 400 percent of the poverty line.

Oct. 30
The House is scheduled to adjourn, but there’s no chance it will, as conference members will need time to reconcile House and Senate legislation. And if a public option is still a sticking point, expect the White House to find another way to “keep insurance companies honest.”

Dec. 24
By this point, Democrats are desperate to give their president a win, if only to save their skins in 2010. And everyone is desperate to go home. So health care finally passes. Will it work? Take two aspirins and call in a decade.

Health Care’s Major Operations