OK, Now What: Health Care Negotiations Begin

Now that the Senate eked out a vote last evening on President Obama’s health care bill, the real business is beginning.

The key players seem to be four women Senators of the 17 serving; Joe Lieberman who threatens to fillibuster the bill unless the public option goes away, preventing it to come to a vote on the floor without 60 votes to override it (also requiring either Sens. Snowe or Collins from Maine); and the Catholic Church.

Note, this is the Senate end of the equation. No one has any idea how the House and Senate will marry up on a final health care bill that can pass both houses — but perhaps the women will become creative problem-solvers.

All the pundits are focused on lining up the House against the Senate and see where there’s negotiating room. Not only women are furious over the current abortion-funding language in the House bill. Men are also, but it was the House women who had the shown down — or tried to, Republicans denied them the right to speak — not the Democratic men, over abortion-funding language.

Knowing just how much improved health care coverage means to women in America, we may see the comparatively few women in Clongress reaching out and working together. Mind you, no one has said this but me. Republicans generally are happy to see the health care bill die totally, but Snowe definitely wants a bill out of this set of negotiations, and presumably Collins agrees.

I’m learning a lot about men being more ideological and women more pragmatic in getting things done, and just maybe pragmatism will kick in here over ideology.

Not so much is known about Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, a mother of twins, wife of a doctor and member of the Episcopalian Church. No comment from me on that subject. We focused on Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu last week in RedTracker.

The public option seems to be the greatest obstacle to passage.

Senator Snowe has long proposed a trigger for a future public option, giving the insurance industry time to fix the problems without a government-run plan. It’s hard to believe that if one Maine senator supports this “trigger” solution, that the other is firmly opposed. Note that Snowe’s trigger is based on a state by state situation.

I am not alone in not understanding this cross-state health insurance proposal that slumbers in the Republican mindset.  How confusing that a country that believes in free competition and no monopolies has gotten itself into a situation where in many states 81% of the insurance is by one company. In 40 states, two companies dominate.

Bottom line, how does America get competition in the health care industry without a public option — or some equivalent? 

More reading: Democrats Focus on GOP Senators from Maine NYTimes