Policy-ish

Piecemeal Approach To Health Overhaul Would Be Tricky

Liberal House Democrats have definitively ruled out taking up the more moderate Senate health overhaul bill, all but dashing any hope that of accomplishing President Obama's goal of signing this year a comprehensive law to remake the nation's health system this year. So now what?

Knives are out as Democrats regroup on health overhaul. i

Knives are out as Democrats regroup on health overhaul. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com
Knives are out as Democrats regroup on health overhaul.

Knives are out as Democrats regroup on health overhaul.

iStockphoto.com

Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, tells the Plum Line blog that the message delivered to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning in a closed-door meeting boiled down to: "We cannot support the Senate bill—period."

That stark political reality leaves the Democratic leadership scrounging for salvageable scraps from the broader health bills. Yet even that fallback strategy is not without its challenges.

In an interview with ABC News yesterday, Obama suggested the possibility of scaling the health bill back to focus "on those elements that people agree on."

There is abiding interest in trying to push pieces, such as preventing insurers from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions and filling in the doughnut hole—the quirk in Medicare drug coverage that leaves some seniors high and dry for an expensive chunk of their prescriptions.

Missouri Democratic Sen. Clair McCaskill told Capitol News Connection yesterday that those pieces might have trouble standing on their own, as a practical matter:

I heard somebody say this morning, we'll just do preexisting conditions. Well, you can't do preexisting conditions unless you do a mandate and you can't do a mandate if you can't make insurance affordable. ... It's just all inter-related.

Then there are the obvious political difficulties of splitting up the current bills. On Thursday's Morning Edition Julie Rovner explained, protracted battles are likely given fairly united Republican opposition in the Senate.

Still, Democrats remain fearful about failing to deliver any health care changes. The last time Democrats tried and failed to pass a health overhaul bill was in 1994, the year they later lost their majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Meanwhile, Republicans are riding high. Washington Post media guru Howard Kurtz tweets: "Scott Brown being treated as a visiting king: Live cable coverage of impromptu chat outside Capitol AND in visit to McCain's office."

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