Congressional Progressives are on the brink of a major victory in the public option campaign.
Following tonight's meeting of the Democratic House caucus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ready to bring a health care bill with the "robust" public option (currently defined as a public option with Medicare +5% rates) to the floor of the House.
Pelosi to bring public option backed by liberals to floor pending caucus approval
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has chosen to put the public option favored by the liberal wing of her party in the healthcare bill that goes to the House floor, pending agreement later Tuesday night by the full caucus, according to two House sources.
Leaders are planning to roll out the bill next week, and are hoping to vote the first week in November.
The plan, called the "robust" option or "Medicare Plus 5" in the jargon that has emerged on Capitol Hill, ties provider reimbursement rates to Medicare, adding 5 percent.(...)
[T]he liberal option saves the most money, according to congressional analysts, by competing with those companies and driving down premiums. A Democratic leadership source said the leaders have received an analysis that shows that both forms of the public option reduce healthcare costs across a 20-year time frame.
This is an enormous step forward for the public option campaign. If the House passes a health care reform bill with the Medicare +5% public option, which now appears likely, the chances of a public option of some sort ending up in the final bill skyrocket.
By going with the stronger, Medicare +5% public option gives the House negotiating room in the Senate for a weaker public option--negotiated rates, Schumer's "level playing field," or the opt-out--to emerge in the final bill. If the House goes into conference committee with a weaker public option, they will have less room to negotiate with the Senate.
Now, if the Senate brings the opt-out public option to the conference committee--and Ben Nelson is now openly supporting the opt-out--the debate won't be whether or not to have a public option, but what kind of public option will end up in the final bill.
Key details on the House bill--including its cost estimate, current number of supporters in the House, and political ramifications within the Democratic Party--can be found in the extended entry.
The CBO score meets President Obama's cost target A couple hours ago, Greg Sargent reported that a version of the House health care bill with the robust public option was scored at under President Obama's stated limit of $900 billion over ten years:
In another step forward for the public option, I'm told reliably by a source that House leaders have been given a new Congressional Budget Office "score" finding that the evolving House bill - when you include a robust public option - reduces the deficit and is under the President's cost goal of $900 billion
According to preliminary numbers, the final bill would cost around $870 billion over the next 10 years - coming in under President Barack Obama's $900 billion target - and cover 96 percent of those Americans who qualify for coverage.
House bill covers more people, and at a lower rate, than Senate bill The House bill will cover 96% of Americans (or around 34.5 million), compared to only 94%, or 29 million, for the Senate Finance Committee bill. This means the cost per person covered is about $320 lower--$2,520 vs $2,840--in the House bill than the Senate Finance bill.
Currently 206 votes for the bill As of last week, the whip count for health care reform with a robust public option stood as follows:
This puts the bill at 206 likely supporters, 30 likely opponents, and 20 or 21 undecided (depending on the results of the NY-23 special election). While that is not currently enough for passage, it is likely that the bill can get over the finish line with support from the leadership.
So, the credit for pushing the bill this far goes to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has emerged as a new, powerful player in the House of Representatives. If the robust public option ends up in the bill that passes the House, and if a public option ends up in the final health care bill, it will be a clear victory for the Progressive Caucus over the more conservative elements in the party--Senate Conservadems and House Blue Dogs--who so far in 2009 have wielded the bulk of power in Congress.
Overall, a huge story, and a great step forward. The public option campaign--which so many pundits, Senate Conservadems, and House Blue Dogs declared dead for months--keeps demonstrating real signs of life.