Senate bill really unfit for consumption?

Stretched and pulled into an unrecognizable shape

Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic said today what a lot of liberals have been saying about the Senate bill. Basically, it’s been stretched and pulled like a gob of saltwater taffy as it morphed into something barely acceptable to barely enough Democrats, but also largely disappointing to a large contingent of other liberals (and completely offensive to most conservatives).

But Cohn also asks the important question, which is whether the bill is still a decent bill – even after a kitchen cram-packed with cooks alternately spiced up and watered down the original recipe until it was, in the eyes of many, not fit for consumption.

So he looked at what the Senate bill would do to families. He took calculations from a pointy headed health care expert from MIT named Jonathan Gruber, who based his calculations on CBO official cost estimates.

And it doesn’t look … ah … not fit for consumption. In fact, in each of the four scenarios (ranging from 150% of the federal poverty line to 350% of the federal poverty line) examined, the annual premium dropped, the annual out-of-pocket max dropped and the total percentage of income used for health care dropped.

Could it be better? Cohn says, yeah, it could. But should the bill be scrapped, as some liberals have charged? Nope. As Cohn concludes, “we should also recognize the Senate bill for what it is: A measure that will make people’s lives significantly better. Surely that’s worth a little enthusiasm.”

You’ve got our enthusiasm, Jonathan.

Another great question is whether the health reform is ultimately going to look completely different from the proposals President Obama envisioned and talked about during his Presidential campaign. And the answer there, too, is “not so much” (we’re paraphrasing), according to health reform pundit Ezra Klein.

Klein actually says this:

But the basic structure of the proposal is remarkably similar. Here’s how it was described in the campaign’s white paper:

The Obama-Biden plan provides new affordable health insurance options by: (1) guaranteeing eligibility for all health insurance plans; (2) creating a National Health Insurance Exchange to help Americans and businesses purchase private health insurance; (3) providing new tax credits to families who can’t afford health insurance and to small businesses with a new Small Business Health Tax Credit; (4) requiring all large employers to contribute towards health coverage for their employees or towards the cost of the public plan; (5) requiring all children have health care coverage; (5) expanding eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs; and (6) allowing flexibility for state health reform plans.

So if we stay with our food analogy, Colonel Obama’s Original Recipe may be a little more crispy, but it’s still basically got the core herbs and spices.

We still don’t know what ultimately is going to end up on our plate. Opponents feel they need to continue to fight until the bitter end in the Senate. And then, if the legislation survives the Senate, there’s still the challenge of merging it with the House bill.

The cooks aren’t done tinkering with health reform. It could end up a little spicier. It could end up a little more bland. But for now, at least, we haven’t lost our appetite for change.

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