Members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (shown here) continue to plow ahead on a health reform package, turning a blind eye to a long-standing bipartisan measure by Sens. Ron Wyden and Bob Bennett.
My reading of what is happening in the two committees is that in both cases were demonstrating that the present system is beyond jiggering, Bennett said. The present system isnt working. ... If we start with Bennett-Wyden as the template for the debate Im perfectly open to people saying, This part of it doesnt work, that part of it doesnt work, you have to change it. but you see youd be changing the new template instead of trying to jigger the current system.
The problem is no one leading the efforts not Obama nor Baucus nor Kennedy wants to create a new system that might force some Americans to change their health insurance. Obama has repeatedly promised that whatever he signs would allow Americans who like their doctors and their health care plans to keep them.
You know that mantra you hear Obama and everyone on earth saying if you like what you have, you can keep it? Not under the Wyden plan, said one senior Senate Democratic source. All those happy Americans who like their doctor and their insurance plan? Not under the Wyden plan.
Baucus said last week that he admires Wydens dedication to the subject but that he just cant support the bill. Baucus spent last week working furiously to forge a compromise on his health care legislation, with stakeholders signaling they were getting closer to a deal.
Hes never pushed it with me, Baucus said. I think the reason he hasnt pushed it is because it has a fundamental flaw in that it would very significantly undermine the employer-based system. ... I cant thank him enough for all the work he has put into this legislation, but that particular provision, I just think, is one that has flaws.
Another Democratic Senator, who asked to remain anonymous, said Democrats did not reject the Wyden-Bennett approach outright but took a serious look at how it could work particularly since it appears to pay for itself and comes with willing Republicans. But ultimately, this Democrat said, key players in the debate decided it was unworkable because it would dismantle the current system.
However, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a co-sponsor of Wyden-Bennett, said Democrats who are driving the health care debate are unlikely to find true bipartisanship on the issue as long as they continue to try to push for either a government-run insurance plan or a co-op, which many Republicans believe is a back-door attempt at creating a public plan.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.