With today’s health care summit set to begin at the top of the hour, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration has already crafted a fallback plan that it would pursue if Congress can’t pass a comprehensive bill.
The bill would cover 15 million people by expanding Medicaid and S-CHIP and imposing a national “slacker mandate” that would force insurers to allow “children” to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26. The price tag would be about one-fourth of the $950 billion the administration claims its current bill costs, according to the article.
Politically, many of the Republican proposals I’ve seen include a slacker mandate, even though it would increase premiums and represent more government command and control, but the expansion of the other entitlements is likely to set off alarm bells.
Such a proposal would not do anything to reform the health care system or contain costs, and it would be hard to claim that it does anything to help the 85 percent of Americans who already have insurance. Instead, Obama would have to sell an expanded welfare program.
Another big obstacle would be getting liberals on board with scaled-down ambitions. Such a proposal would have to start back at the committee level and pass both chambers. At every level, lawmakers will try to insert new measures that they believe are essential. Pretty soon, it wouldn’t be a scaled-back bill any more. Not to mention that the whole process would drag things out further into the election year.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Obama did roll out some sort of smaller bill if the comprehensive effort fails — if nothing else, to try to portray Republicans as opposed to any sort of health care legislation — but I don’t see it going anywhere.