Blogger Reaction to Obama Health Care Plan

Bill Scher

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., met his March pledge to release a health care plan by this month. And there’s been a flurry of blog reaction.

Ezra Klein says, “Props to the Obama team for coming out with a public option and serious insurer regulation.”

But Klein also stresses that “Unlike in the [Jacob] Hacker [Health Care For America] or [John] Edwards plans, the public option is not a general purpose insurer … Rather it is an insurer of specific groups, in the way Medicaid covers many of the poor, or SCHIP is targeted at children. In this case, it’s looking at small businesses, the self-employed, the unemployed, and those employed by companies who don’t offer insurance.”

Perhaps most importantly, Klein notes: “Obama’s plan is not a universal plan. After it is implemented, it will not have 100 percent of the population covered … This is a plan that makes universality possible — that is budgeted for 100 percent coverage — but does not use a government or individual mandate to force global buy-in.”

New Republic blogger Jonathan Cohn, author of “Sick,” reports that the Obama campaign still insists that the plan will allow the candidate to fulfill his pledge to achieve universal coverage by the end of his first term:

…sources close the Obama campaign are making a not-ridiculous case that the plan really will achieve universal coverage by 2012, as Obama is promising.

Still, I have some serious doubts about that last point, for reasons that have to do with politics as much as policy. Whether you get everybody or not at the outset is one of those big issues that actually matter…

Cohn also offers some praise: “there’s still a ton to like in the plan, to be sure — particularly the meaty material on bringing down costs and improving quality. Good regulation of the insurance industry, too, plus a new public program into which people can enroll.”

Liberal Values says the jury is out about that public plan: “This raises far more questions than it answers … There would be a tremendous difference between offering a plan comparable to Medicare [available to everyone], as opposed to a plan modeled more after Medicaid [targeting a narrow group].” (UPDATE: In the comments, Liberal Values corrects my interpretative text inserted in brackets, saying his remarks about Medicare and Medicaid related to differences in “regulations and reimbursement,” not the breadth of people covered.)

Single-payer advocates are harsh. At MyDD, California Nurses Shum writes, “Obama has chosen to give more customers and more public funds to the for-profit insurance corporations. It’s an expensive gift and one that allows them to continue meddling in medical decision-making while raking in obscene blood-money profits.” Progressive Review concurs.

D-Day is restrained: “This is why a lot of us think that Obama is wary of transformational change, while willing to attempt to take incremental steps.”

Article 19 offers the cynical take: “just enough federal bureaucracy for the GOP to caricature, just enough private insurance involvement to annoy liberals and just enough confusion to keep everyone else from knowing just what to think.”

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