On the whole, I think I approve of this speed-dating version of legislative negotiation. The Gang of Ten negotiations beat the misconceived pointlessness of Max Baucus‘s months-long committee negotiations hands down.
Here’s the early report (all rumors, really, since lips are officially sealed). The public option has not been euthanized, it has been cryogenically preserved. Here’s what was gained in exchange:
As has been widely reported, one of the trade-offs will be to extend a version of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan to consumers in the exchanges. Insurance companies will have the option of creating nationally-based non-profit insurance plans that would be offered on the exchanges in every state. However, according to the aide, if insurance companies don’t step up to the plate to offer such plans, that will trigger a national public option.
Beyond that, the group agreed — contingent upon CBO analysis — to a Medicare buy in.
That buy-in option would initially be made available to uninsured people aged 55-64 in 2011, three years before the exchanges open. For the period between 2011 and 2014, when the exchanges do open, the Medicare option will not be subsidized — people will have to pay in without federal premium assistance — and so will likely be quite expensive, the aide noted. However, after the exchanges launch, the Medicare option would be offered in the exchanges, where people could pay into it with their subsidies.
It appears as if liberals lost out on a Medicaid expansion that would have opened the program up to everybody under 150 percent of the poverty line. That ceiling will likely remain at 133 percent, as is called for in the current bill.
In addition to the new insurance options, the group has tentatively agreed to new, and strengthened, insurance regulations, which the aide could not divulge at this time.
“I do not support proposals that would replace the public option in the bill with a purely private approach,” said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin. “We need to have some competition for the insurance industry to keep rates down and save taxpayer dollars.”
Of course, “I do not support” is not the same as “I will not vote for”. But Feingold’s comments do raise the possibility of not voting for the compromise. So, at this point, it’s probably not safe to assume that Nelson, Lincoln and Landrieu feel committed to voting for the compromise. Especially Nelson, with his Stupak-language-or-nothing stance.