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The Snowe alternative on health care

The Snowe alternative on health care
By Eric Black

CNN reports that Pres. Obama and top aides have stepped up talks with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) about a compromise health care deal that would not create a public option but would include a stand-by provision that would trigger the creation of such a government-run health insurance plan if the other elements of the bill (things like the universally-popular no-denying insurance for pre-existing conditions and some cost-containment measures) do not succeed against some formula for getting more Americans insured and lower costs.

The story says that at this point the White House sees little potential for compromise with any Republicans other than the famously moderate Snowe, although they have some hope that if they reached agreement with her she could bring along her Maine colleague, the also-famously-moderate Susan Collins.

Shifting gears slightly here, I didn’t write about it the other day, but I commend the op-ed that Bill Bradley published suggesting a bigger grand compromise: give the Republicans something that they have been demanding for years — what they call “tort reform” but is really a cap on damage awards for victims of medical malpractice — in exchange for support for the main Dem goal (universal coverage).

The idea requires a great deal of detail-filling-in, at least as to how those caps on malpractice would work (the right of patients injured by malpractice is not nothing to compromise away) and how universality would be achieved. But pursuing such a deal would help Dems answer two big criticisms: 1. that Dems haven’t really offered Repubs anything from their wish list in exchange for going along with what will basically still be a Dem plan, and 2. that the reason “tort reform” is a non-starter is that the Dem Party benefits from the considerable support of the American Trial Lawyers Association.

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When I attended the Michele Bachmann town hall meeting last week, the colleague who attended to help Bachmann respond to questions about the bill, Rep. (and Dr.) Michael Burgess (Repub-Texas) did say that an offer to include “tort reform” in the bill would have been what it took to get him interested in looking for posible compromises with the overall bill.