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White House Fights Health Care "Plan B" Story

February 25, 2010 - by Eric Naing

In advance of today’s health care summit, the White House is furiously working to push back on a Wall Street Journal story claiming that it could fall back on a scaled down “Plan B” health care plan.

The WSJ reports that Plan B would provide insurance for about half as many Americans, roughly 15 million as the current health care plans do:

It would do that by requiring insurance companies to allow people up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ health plans, and by modestly expanding two federal-state health programs, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, one person said. The cost to the federal government would be about one-fourth the price tag for the broader effort, which the White House has said would cost about $950 billion over 10 years.

Media reports indicate that the White House if furious over the story and is working hard to swat the allegation down. After a year of messy debate, time is now more precious than ever with midterm elections looming. Falling back on a new health care bill, however small it is, could still take months to push through Congress as Ezra Klein explains:

Think about what’s entailed in restarting the process. The Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee would have to build new bills. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, Education and Labor Committee, and Ways and Means Committee would need to write new legislation. All of those proposals would need to be merged. There would need to be discussions in committees, and then weeks and weeks on the floor. Then there would need to be conference. Then they’d have to come back to the floor.

There’s no time for that. Congress has a few, final months before everyone scurries home to campaign for 2010. And they want to spend those months forcing Republicans to take difficult votes on jobs legislation, not arguing over whether Medicaid is solvent enough for a major expansion.

According to Klein, the so-called Plan B was drafted by the Obama administration last year as one of a number of hypothetical alternative health care plans. But while Plan B does exist, the White House has not and is not planning to act on it.

Jonathan Cohn quotes a senior Democrat who backs up Klein’s reporting:

The truth here is that this proposal was developed because the president wanted to know what the impact would be if he had to go smaller after the Massachusetts setback. He wants to pass comprehensive health reform and is fighting hard to make that happen.
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