Such a Deal

Word is that Sen. Ben Nelson has agreed to vote for the current version of the Senate health care reform bill in exchange for a lot of money for Medicaid. The federal government will pay for new Medicaid recipients in Nebraska for ever and ever.

There is also a “compromise” on abortion that dumps the issue of funding elective abortions on the states. States can choose to prohibit abortion funding in the insurance exchanges in their states. Further, health plans that do pay for abortions must segregrate premiums from federal money somehow.

This is not good enough for John McCormack of the Weekly Standard, who complains that at least 13 states would continue to fund abortion, and we can’t have that. So much for states’ rights.

Senate Dems say they now have 60 votes, which means that a Republican filibuster cannot stop a vote on the bill, and maybe they’ll pass it. Of course, then they have to reconcile that bill with the House bill, and that’s going to take another war.

So what’s in the Senate bill? Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery write for the Washington Post:

Instead of a public option, the final product would allow private firms for the first time to offer national insurance policies to all Americans, outside the jurisdiction of state regulations. Those plans would be negotiated through the Office of Personnel Management, the same agency that handles health coverage for federal workers and members of Congress.

I want that out of the final bill, for reasons I’ve explained several times in earlier posts.

Starting immediately, insurers would be prohibited from denying children coverage for pre-existing conditions. A complete ban on the practice would take effect in 2014, when the legislation seeks to create a network of state-based insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, where people who lack access to affordable coverage through an insurer can purchase policies.

Insurers competing in the exchanges would be required to justify rate increases, and those who jacked up prices unduly could be barred from the exchange. Reid’s package also would give patients the right to appeal to an independent board if an insurer denies a medical claim. And all insurance companies would be required to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar they collect in premiums on delivering care to their customers.

Every American would be required to obtain coverage under the proposal, and employers would be required to pay a fine if they failed to offer affordable coverage and their workers sought federal subsidies to purchase insurance in the exchanges. Reid’s package would offer additional assistance to the smallest businesses, however, increasing tax credits to purchase coverage by $12 billion over previous versions.

See also Steve Benen.