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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What's the Matter with the Blue Dogs?

Jacob Hacker wonders why the Blue Dogs oppose health care reform that could provide significant help to their constituents:

Health Care for the Blue Dogs, by Jacob S. Hacker, Commentary, Washington Post: The fate of health-care reform ... hinges on ... the ... "Blue Dogs" -- who are threatening to jump ship.

The main worry expressed by the Blue Dogs is that the ... leading bills ... won't bring down medical inflation. The irony is that the Blue Dogs' argument -- that a new public insurance plan designed to compete with private insurers should be smaller and less powerful, and that Medicare and this new plan should pay more generous rates to rural providers -- would make reform more expensive, not less. The further irony is that the federal premium assistance that the Blue Dogs worry is too costly ... would make health-care affordable for a large share of their constituents. ...

Increasing what doctors and hospitals are paid by the new public plan, as the Blue Dogs desire, would only raise premiums and health costs for their constituents. It would also fail to address excessive payments to hospitals and specialists...

Many Blue Dogs fret that a new public health insurance plan will become too large... Their concern should be that a public plan will be too weak. A public health plan will be particularly vital for Americans in the rural areas that many Blue Dogs represent. ...

Yet the Blue Dogs have mostly ignored the huge benefits of a new public plan for their districts. ... Right now, large swaths of farmers, ranchers and self-employed workers can barely afford a policy ... or are uninsured. They will benefit greatly from the premium assistance in the House legislation..., from additional subsidies for small businesses to cover their workers, and from a new national purchasing pool, or "exchange," giving those employers access to low-cost group health insurance that's now out of reach.

And given that Blue Dogs are worried about the ... cost of reform, they should applaud the House bill's requirement that all but the smallest of employers make a meaningful contribution to the cost of coverage. This will not just raise much-needed revenue..., it will also reduce the incentive for employers to drop coverage and let their workers go into the pool, increasing the size of the exchange and the public plan.

Blue Dogs have the future of health-care reform in their hands. If they hold firm to their principles of fiscal responsibility and effective relief for workers and employers in their districts, what's good for Blue Dogs will also be good for America.

Maybe their most important constituents aren't the voters in their districts?

    Posted by on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 12:43 AM in Economics, Health Care, Politics | Permalink  Comments (21)


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