Sen. Max Baucus and a returning-with-a-mission Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose respective committees both will be taking up health care reform soon, are promising to try to combine their legislation into one bill before the Senate's August recess. Sen. Kennedy has promised to deliver a bill with a public option, while Sen. Baucus has backed away from his noncommittal stance (conservative Sen. Ben Nelson also recently backed away from his outright opposition) that has lead to speculation of a watered down public option plan that wouldn't be allowed to be better than a private insurance company or a "trigger" plan that wouldn't come into play until years down the road if and when private insurance companies did not improve.
These are idiotic, insurance-industry appeasing ideas that are anathema to real reform, of course, but thankfully it appears that momentum is back on the side of a real public option as 28 Democratic Senators have come out in support and with the return of Sen. Kennedy to the Senate and the forefront of this issue.
You know, I was just reminded earlier that today was the "Nationwide Day of Action for Single-Payer" - a call for rallies across the U.S. in support of a single-payer system. I've detailed on this blog before the superiority of such a system before and I'd probably be preaching to the choir anyway if I rehashed it again. But I do find it very sad that single-payer advocates haven't even been seriously been brought the table in this health care reform effort (especially since Sen. Baucus is routinely throwing them out of his committee meetings). That said, I agree with President Obama that while such a system would be ideal if we were designing a health care policy from scratch, it's not politically do-able and it'd be too big of a transition for people, many of which see the need for reform but aren't quite ready to give up their current health care plans.
But for any other plan to be real reform in my estimation, it needs to a) achieve universality by covering the uninsured; b) regulate the insurance companies so they can't deny people coverage for "pre-existing conditions" and other non-sense, particularly if universality is achieved by mandating that everyone have insurance such as in Massachusetts; c) immediately offer an unrestrained public option ala Medicare that has all the advantages of being a government plan (lower administrative costs, ability to negotiate lower prices, etc.) that gives people another choice to what the private insurance companies currently offer (which, if successful, could eventually lead to single-payer anyway); and d) lower the ever-increasing costs of health care in this country.
Unless these conditions are met, I fear our health care system will remain broken. So I eagerly await to see what legislation comes out of the work of these two Senate committees. I hope it provides the fixes we've been waiting for.
UPDATE: Interesting article on how red states would benefit from universal health care the most with blue states picking up the tab.