Friday, January 29, 2010

Where Are We With Health Care Reform

In spite of the comments by the President during the SOTU progress on reforming the nation's health care problems seemed to move further into the future this week and possibly out into the 'never' zone. OK, let's take one more crack at figuring out the likely fate of healthcare reform.  According to the Washington Post, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are still far apart and "congressional Democrats remained in disarray Thursday about how to move forward, with at least some pointing at the White House as the cause of the legislative standstill gripping Capitol Hill." . So what's the White House saying? According to the New York Times:
With Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul stalled on Capitol Hill, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview that Democrats would try to act first on job creation, reducing the deficit and imposing tighter regulation on banks before returning to the health measure, the president’s top priority from last year.
....Mr. Emanuel, the chief of staff, said he hoped Congressional Democrats would take up the jobs bill next week. Then, in his view, Congress would move to the president’s plan to impose a fee on banks to help offset losses to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the fund used to bail out banks and automakers.
Lawmakers would next deal with a financial regulatory overhaul, and then pick up where they left off on health care. “All these things start and lead to one place: J-O-B-S,” Mr. Emanuel said.
So, according to Rahm, health care has moved into at least 4th place behind jobs, bank reform and the deficit in White House priority. When you look at the ability of the Congress to move anything forward over the last year thanks to, mostly but not completely Republican obstruction, the best case scenario on health care action would be a couple of months off but realistically more like four or five months and with this being an election year 'never' could be a real possibility.

Things are changing daily and it is too soon to pronounce anything probable in this Congressional cycle but my gut feeling tells me that if health care reform is moving down in priority then chances get worse daily and the whole thing is dead for the near future. Jobs and financial reform and the deficit are important but I think getting a handle on the health care crisis still should be the number one priority. Jeebus, Congress has been working on it for a little over a year now and while the results are still far from adequate they at least address some of the big issues. Putting this issue to bed will go a long way in finding some light to shine on the other big issues as well. I'm still waiting and have my fingers crossed but I beginning to get that hollow feeling.

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