Democrats Have Their Health Care Agenda Ready
In my earlier piece this morning, I suggested that should the Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress, they work with GOP moderates to restore a bipartisan consensus on foreign policy to counter the White House. I also suggested that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid use their increased numbers in each house to pursue oversight and accountability of this administration, and to legislate for a reform agenda in domestic policy, even if the White House blocks it. Health care is an example of an area where the Democrats can work with moderate Republicans in both houses to pass bills that would not only force White House vetoes but would also drive wedges in the GOP ahead of the 2008 election.
A good piece in today’s New York Times shows that Pelosi and her health care lieutenants in the House are already thinking ahead to an agenda that would include 1) fixing the Medicare Part D corporate welfare program to close gaps and allow for best-price negotiation by the federal government; 2) expand the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program; and 3) pursue embryonic stem cell research.
The CBO incorrectly dismisses the cost savings possible from allowing the federal government to negotiate for lower drug prices, when in fact state governments already do this at savings greater than what HMOs obtain now. The CBO fails to note that there are subsidies and few incentives in the Medicare Part D program for HMOs and drug plan providers to obtain cost reductions, and there is a good case to be made that a government operated drug benefit through Medicare is more efficient and less costly than the corporate welfare that Bush has provided to the HMOs and Big PharMa. Similarly, any effort to enroll more and more children into health coverage through expanded CHIP participation, and to seek medical solutions through embryonic stem cell research can only reduce costs and improve health outcomes for society as a whole.
Aside from being good public policy that puts the public interest ahead of private gain, a Democratic health care agenda that centered on all three of these issues the next two years would be good domestic politics as well. Not only would all three of these initiatives have the support of all Democrats, but they would also have the support of a significant number of GOP moderates, all of whom have no reason in 2007 to tie themselves any longer to a lame duck and marginalized far right administration heading into 2008. Any presidential vetoes of this agenda would highlight the stark differences between the far right base of the GOP and the rest of its party and society as a whole.