Friday, December 18, 2009

Democrats Strike Deal on Health Care Reform

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., triumphantly announced on Friday that Democrats had struck a deal with Republicans to provide universal health care coverage to “every single American, at zero additional cost to the taxpayers.”

“The time to act is now,” Reid said. “We must seize the moment and enact meaningful reform that will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and ensure that no child or adult lacks for medical care.”

President Obama has set a deadline of Christmas for enacting health care reform. He made the issue a centerpiece of his campaign and passage of such legislation would be a major coup.

The compromise has all the major provisions that Democrats — particularly the liberal wing — have long sought, including a public option, the chance for people younger than 65 to buy into Medicare, and permission for the government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Reid said that he anticipated the inclusion of such items should please liberal groups who have derided the Democrats for abandoning the core principles at stake in order to garner Republican support, as well as enable them to get at least 60 votes to avert a filibuster.

But Reid pointed out that the compromise legislation also has major sweeteners for Republicans, such as zero increase in cost to the taxpayers compared to the current projections over the 10 year budget window, the period in which Congress calculates costs.

Those eager to benefit from this groundbreaking legislation will need patience and longevity, however. The provisions do not take effect until 100 years after passage of the bill, which is expected to come as early as Monday.

“Some people say that congressmen and women just look to getting re-elected, without any thought of how the next generation will bear the consequences of our actions,” Reid. “But this carefully crafted bill belies that stereotype. With this bill, we are ensuring that our childrens' childrens' childrens' children will never want for necessary medicine or suffer from reprehensible emergency room wait times.”

When asked by reporters why they delayed implementation of the legislation for a century, Reid said that they had initially sought a delay of just five years. “[Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,] was holding out for a 10-year extension but Joe Lieberman insisted that it be 100 years,” Reid acknowledged.

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