I work on other programs affecting low-income families, not health care. But if Congress passes a true health care reform year, and no improvements in the programs that I work on, I'll consider it a success. And if we get everything on my organization's policy agenda for 2009 but health care reform crashes and burns, I'll be disappointed.
Ezra Klein is blogging for the Washington Post now, and he's got two really good pieces today, one from this morning on why the CBO cost estimates are putting health care reform in danger and one from tonight on the Finance committee's revised plan. Basically, the budget office has told Congress, no, you're not going to save enough money with comparative effectiveness research and improved health care IT to pay for the expansions in coverage you want to see. If you want real health care reform, the choices are to come up with the money from some other source (e.g taxes of one sort or another) or to get serious about cost-controls (e.g. take a chunk out of insurers' hides, and possibly out of doctors' as well.) The no-hard-choices fairy isn't going to save you.
It's looking like Congress isn't really going to tackle these hard choices until after the Fourth of July recess. Which means that the next few weeks are a great time to weigh in with your Representative and Senators about the need for real health care reform -- including a public plan -- and the need to pay for it with comprehensive tax reform. If you really want single payer, go ahead and tell them that, but then tell them about what you think is second best, because single payer isn't happening, not this time around, and it won't be more likely in 10 years if this round collapses.
Are you paying attention to the health care debate, or have all the different bills made your eyes cross? Are you waiting until things sort out a bit to pay attention? What burning questions would you like answered? As I said, this isn't my area of expertise, but if I don't know the answer, I probably know where to find it. If you want to get into the wonky details yourself, my favorite health policy sites are Families USA, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.