Obama preps for reform showdown

President Obama has finally stepped up to the plate and presented his own plan for health reform. Obama's proposal is modeled after the reform bill that the U.S. Senate passed in December. However, it includes some middle-class-oriented deal sweeteners designed to appease House leaders, reports the New York Times. For example, the administration would not provide Nebraska with special aid to pay for a planned Medicaid expansion, instead opting to give all states additional help to pay for Medicaid enrollment growth. In addition, the administration would delay a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance plans and eliminate the Medicare prescription drug "doughnut hole." As reported yesterday, the Obama bill also would provide a mechanism for controlling insurance premium rate hikes. However, Obama's proposal stuck with the Senate bill when it comes to a public option and doesn't include a government-backed insurance plan. 

The White House estimates that Obama's bill would provide insurance coverage to 31 million currently uninsured Americans by 2019. Administration officials anticipate that the plan would cost $950 billion--and reduce the federal deficit by $100 billion--over 10 years. If that projection is accurate, the cost of the Obama plan would run between the Senate plan ($872 billion) and the House plan ($1.05 trillion). However, the Congressional Budget Office cannot analyze the proposal until the administration provides more details and more time for review, says Douglas Elmendorf, the office's director.

In laying out its proposal, the Obama administration seems to be setting the stage for a showdown with Republicans at this week's televised healthcare summit, forcing them to deliver specific counterproposals or risk being viewed as obstructionist. The administration indicated that if it cannot obtain a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, Democrats would attempt to pass Obama's legislation on a simple majority vote using a procedure called reconciliation.

Prior to the release of the Obama plan, the American public was still evenly divided about the prospect of health reform legislation, with 43 percent signaling approval and 43 percent signaling opposition, according to the February Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. However, a majority of Americans (six in 10 people identified as Republicans, Democrats or Independents) found at least some provision to like in the reform bills passed by the House and Senate.

To learn more about the president's health reform legislation:
-  read the New York Times article or blog post
- visit the Kaiser website to learn about the latest public attitudes