After the Senate passes its health care bill on Thursday the 24th, the conference committee will begin, at least informally, on Monday, the 28th of December.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) promised Tuesday that President Barack Obama would receive a healthcare reform bill by the time of his State of the Union address in January.
Senate Democratic leaders plan to cut their holiday recess short and begin talks with their House counterparts immediately after Christmas in the hope of producing a final bill by mid-January.
With the public option fight all but over, here is a partial list of the issues they will be working on reconciling:
Reproductive rights. The Stupak language in the House bill bars all insurance plans in the exchange from being covering abortion and abortion related medical procedures. The Nelson language gives individual states the choice of adopting that language or not. Either way, it is a setback for reproductive rights, but the Nelson language would be better. Reproductive rights advocates will likely, and rightly, be pushing for better than the Nelson language.
Taxing high-end insurance plans: The House does not tax high end insurance plans, but the Senate bill does. Most of the people who have these high-end plans are union members, not wealthy people. Personally, I don't think we should be weakening the health care coverage of union members in this bill, and the House funding mechanism of a surtax on the wealthy is fine. Others argue that this is one of the best cost-containment aspects of the bill. A compromise mixing the two approaches is expected.
Medicaid at 150% or 133%? The House bill expands Medicaid eligibility to 150%, while the Senate bill only expands it to 133%. This is a public option discrepancy where the House bill is better (unsurprisingly).
National vs. State exchanges. The House bill has a national exchange, while the Senate bill only has state by state exchanges. Unless I am mistaken, the issue here is creating more competition (national exchange) versus not gutting state regulations (state level exchanges). If I am mistaken about the main issue at play here, please correct me in the comments.
On top of all this, perhaps the most important fight in the conference committee will be to make sure that there is no junk insurance in the exchange (which is part of what the public option fight was about all along). This bill is going to pass, so if millions of people are forced to buy a shitty product, than this entire exercise will have been a huge waste.
Please post corrections to my analysis, and other health care fights that will take place in the conference committee, in the comments.