January 13, 2010


This is encouraging news - at least, until Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe decide they don't like it. But if the House Dems pull this off -- national exchange, repeal of the anti-trust exemption and higher subsidies, they might actually come up with a decent plan:

WASHINGTON -- The White House wants to include a national health-insurance exchange in the health bill, which would give House Democrats one of their top remaining demands, according to an official involved in the discussions.

At issue is who would run the new insurance exchanges that would allow consumers to comparison-shop for health coverage. The House's version of the health overhaul calls for the federal government to run a single, national exchange, while the Senate's version would let states run their own exchanges.

President Barack Obama has told House Democrats that he intends to use the Senate bill as the framework for the final legislation. But the administration is pushing for a handful of House-backed provisions, including the federally run exchange, according to the official.

[...] Proponents of a federal exchange say state exchanges could have too few enrollees to function well, or might have enrollees who on average are too sick. Those who favor state exchanges say they would allow for more flexible regulation than one-size-fits-all standards set in Washington.

The White House also is working to increase the amount of the proposed subsidies that would help offset the cost of buying insurance for lower earners. The administration wants to bring them closer to the House levels, and is exploring with lawmakers how to do that while keeping the price tag around $900 billion over a decade, the target set by Mr. Obama.

House leaders are urging the White House to support repealing a decades-old federal antitrust exemption for the insurance industry that is part of its bill but isn't in the Senate's version. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D., N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Rules, said Mr. Obama showed openness to the idea in conversations with House leaders.

Insurers say they are already heavily regulated by states, where antitrust laws mirror federal rules prohibiting price-fixing and collusion.

Well yes, insurers are nominally regulated by states, but for some odd reason, no one ever seems to enforce them. Hmm...

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