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Seducing Olympia

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olympiasnowe

The end game? If so, whatever was in the HELP or House Committees won’t get anywhere near the finish line.

Ezra Klein, someone who has kept himself clear of rhetorical shots at the White House, has an insider’s look: “universal-lite” or “not universal at all.”

The first camp could be called “universal-lite.” They’re focused on preserving the basic shape of the bill. They think a universal plan is necessary for a number of reasons: For one thing, the insurance market regulations don’t work without universality, as you can’t really ask insurers to offer standard prices if the healthy and the young don’t have to enter the system. For another, it will be easier to change subsidies or improve the benefit package down the road if the initial offerings prove inadequate. New numbers are easier than new features. Creating a robust structure is the most important thing. This camp seems to be largely headed by the policy people.

The second camp is not universal at all. This camp believes the bill needs to be scaled back sharply in order to ensure passage. Covering 20 million people isn’t as good as covering 40 million people, but it’s a whole lot better than letting the bill fall apart and covering no one at all. It’s also a success of some sort, and it gives you something to build on. What that sacrifices in terms of structure it gains in terms of political appeal. This camp is largely headed by members of the political team.

Without Sen. Snowe, the lone Republican, Blue Dogs will peel off too. Once that happens health care reform gets lighter and lighter.

Which begs the question: Without Sen. Snowe, who is evidently providing cover for some of the Blue Dogs Blanche Lincoln, with Republicans battling to the end to defeat health care reform, will Pres. Obama and the Democratic led Congress get a bill at all?

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