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Proposal To Undercut Public Option Lambasted

New compromise proposal would mean insurance exchange would only offer private plans. W. Post: "One potential alternative being discussed Sunday would create a national coverage plan operated by private insurers but run by the Office of Personnel Management, which administers health coverage for federal workers. Senators participating in the talks said the OPM idea had been well received across the ideological spectrum, although details were sketchy. 'I think it has potential,' said Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama's top health aide."

Washington logic on display. Politico: "“The proposal under consideration can be said to provide access to the same type of insurance plans that members of Congress and federal employees get. People think of that as government health insurance; progressives could portray this in the same vein,” said a Democratic Senate aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations. 'But moderates can simultaneously point to the fact that the government isn’t the payer and say competition was enhanced without growing the government. ' That feature – that the plan would offer policies similar to those members of Congress get – could prove a potent selling point for members of Congress to their constituents back home."

Public option policy architect Jacob Hacker rips idea in The Treatment: "[An] even stranger idea is to offer the nonprofit plans available in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) within the exchange. Since the FEHBP is itself a form of exchange, this amounts to offering a new set of private plans within a new set of private plans. How is that going to provide real pressure on private insurers in a consolidated insurance market in which nonprofit plans already have a large presence (and often act little differently from for-profit plans)?"

FireDogLake's Jon Walker adds: "The FEHBP has been a failure on the cost controlling front."

Presidential talk with Senate Dem caucus does not mention public option. NYT: "Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, who opposes creation of a public insurance plan, said he was pleased Mr. Obama did not mention it once on Sunday."

Senate to tackle abortion amendment soon. LAT: "A showdown on the abortion issue is scheduled for early this week. An amendment to set stricter limits on federal funding is expected to be defeated."

The New Yorker's Gawande pushes back on charges that reform won't do enough on cost control: "Almost half of it is devoted to programs that would test various ways to curb costs and increase quality ... Which of these programs will work? We can’t know. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t credit any of them with substantial savings. The package relies on taxes and short-term payment cuts to providers in order to pay for subsidies. But, in the end, it contains a test of almost every approach that leading health-care experts have suggested."

Sen. Bill Nelson looking to break WH-PhRMA deal. HuffPost's Ryan Grim: "Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said on Sunday that if leadership doesn't work with him on his amendment that would break the White House deal with Big Pharma, he won't be there to support the bill. On Saturday, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said that his drug re-importation amendment was the only one so far guaranteed by leadership to get a floor vote. HuffPost asked Nelson if he had gotten a similar guarantee. "I haven't gotten a guarantee, but they're going to have to," he said. And why is that? "They need 60 votes, don't they?" said a smiling Nelson.

GOP Sen. Collins vote in play, but price may be steep. The Treatment's Suzy Khimm: "Collins has stated previously that her support is contingent upon improved insurance affordability. On Friday, she affirmed that she’d like to do so by watering down the lowest-level benefits package that insurers would be required to provide in the exchange ... Rather than making insurance more affordable by pressuring insurance companies themselves cover more of the costs--or by expanding individual subsidies--Collins’s suggestion would diminish the minimum benefits package that some individuals would receive and drastically increase their co-pays and deductibles."

RIght-wing attempt to deprive malpractice victims legal access denied. CQ: "The Senate rejected a GOP bid Sunday to add limits on the amount of fees that plaintiff attorneys could receive in medical malpractice liability cases to the health care overhaul measure."

Optimism Reigns As Copenhagen Summit Begins Today

UN deems summit a "turning point." Reuters: "The planned attendance of the leaders and pledges to curb emissions by all the top emitters -- led by China, the United States, Russia and India -- have raised hopes for an accord after sluggish negotiations in the past two years. 'Copenhagen is already a turning point in the international response to climate change,' said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat."

56 newspapers in 45 countries publish joint editorial demanding action. "The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years."

President Obama and EPA to further affirm US commitment, formally declare CO2 a pollutant that EPA has authority to regulate. WSJ: "...the Obama administration is expected as early as Monday to formally declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant. An "endangerment" finding by the Environmental Protection Agency could pave the way for the government to require businesses that emit carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to make costly changes in machinery to reduce emissions -- even if Congress doesn't pass pending climate-change legislation ... Many business groups are opposed to EPA efforts to curb a gas as ubiquitous as carbon dioxide ... EPA action would give President Barack Obama something to show leaders from other nations when he attends the Copenhagen conference on Dec. 18..."

Paul Krugman and James Hansen square off on NYT oped page over cap-and-trade versus carbon tax.

Right-wing obsession with stolen climate scientist emails not moving Senate votes. The Hill: "[GOP Sen. Susan Collins] told The Hill that the emails hacked from a British research institute led her to check in with two scientists at the University of Maine on the matter. 'They are disappointed at what appears may have happened, but they tell me it does not change their own conclusions or their own research,' she said. Collins still believes humans are causing climate change. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said he does not believe the emails are jeopardizing Democratic swing votes ... 'I am not hearing anybody on our side, even the people who are more economically concerned about the climate legislation who come from coal states, that sort of thing, saying ‘"what are going to say about this, is this a problem?"'"

Deal within reach on initial aid for developing countries. Bloomberg: "Obama found after speaking with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other leaders that there’s an “emerging consensus” to provide $10 billion a year by 2012 to help poor countries deal with global warming. 'The United States will pay its fair share of that amount and other countries will make substantial commitments as well,' [WH Press Sec Robert] Gibbs said in the statement. The administration also believes longer-term financing should be considered in Denmark, he said."

New TARP Cost Estimate Could Boost Jobs Bill

WSJ reports cost estimate for TARP cut $200B: "The Treasury now estimates that over the next 10 years TARP will cost $141 billion at most, down from the $341 billion the White House projected in August. The reduction stems in large part from faster-than-expected repayments by some of the nation's largest banks, as well as less spending on programs to help shore up the financial sector ... The lower-than-expected TARP losses could help the White House tap remaining funds for a jobs program because the revised estimates will help bring down the projected federal budget deficit since the White House will be able to assume less spending associated with the program."

W. Post adds: "White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that President Obama is likely to discuss such a plan during a speech at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday ... Using TARP funds for job creation would likely require additional legislation ... Asked whether Obama endorses House Democrats' proposals to use some bailout money for job creation, Gibbs said, 'It's certainly being looked at, yes.'"

Treasury waiting to sell back Citigroup shares. Bloomberg: "The U.S. Treasury Department aims to hold off on selling its 34 percent stake in Citigroup Inc. until the bank and regulators agree on a broader plan to repay all obligations remaining from last year’s $45 billion government bailout, a person close to the department said. reasury officials are concerned that a sale now of its 7.7 billion shares in the New York-based bank may weaken investor demand should Citigroup subsequently be required to raise capital as a condition of exiting the bailout program ... Citigroup executives have pressed Treasury for at least three months to sell the stake as a first step toward leaving the bailout program ...They want to escape government-imposed pay limits that may make the company vulnerable to employee-poaching by unfettered rivals."

Left-right coalition for Fed transparency builds momentum. Politico: "The Campaign for America’s Future played a key matchmaking role for the left in this coalition, inspired by the partnership between libertarian godfather Ron Paul (R-Texas) and liberal firebrand Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) on the Texas Republican’s audit-the-Fed measure, which has gathered more than 300 co-sponsors and scored a key committee-level victory in the House. 'This bipartisan, kind of odd-bedfellows coalition reflects the disorder of the times politically, the extraordinary, out-of-the-ordinary actions that were taken and the need to call this very establishment institution to account,' said Robert Borosage, the group’s co-director. On Thursday, two die-hard Senate conservatives — Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — said they would join Sanders’s effort to block Bernanke’s nomination."

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