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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New Health Reform Wrinkle: The Cantwell Compromise

The reporting about it in the major rags has been sketchy, to put it charitably. But Ryan Grim has a HuffPo post that outlines the basics of Sen. Maria Cantwell’s “quasi-public option” health reform amendment, just passed by the Senate Finance Committee. Grim says the Cantwell amendment (full text here) “moves the conservative panel as close as it will likely get to a public health insurance option” and he provides this synopsis:

The amendment creates a “federally funded, non-Medicaid, state plan which combines the innovation and quality of private sector competition with the purchasing power of the states,” according to an overview.
It would be available to people with incomes above Medicaid eligibility but below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — a very narrow window. However, Republicans fear — and progressives hope — that once the plan becomes law there will be pressure to expand it…The plan would not be free. It is based on Washington state’s Basic Health plan, which costs roughly 60 dollars a month, with the remainder of the premium subsidized by the state.
Private insurers would be eligible to participate in the plan, as would HMOs or other networks of health care providers…Cantwell says that her measure…would assure coverage of 75 percent of people who are currently uninsured.

Cantwell’s amendment did win the support of four of the five Dems who voted against stronger public option amendments, the exception being Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Grim notes that Sen. Snowe voted against it, which could be a problem down the road. The 12-11 margin suggests, for better or worse, that it may be a tweakable approach to a consensus.

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