One Republican Hill staffer’s read:
The news is of course headlined by Senator Reid’s support for an new Rube-Goldberg like opt-out government plan. No stories can explain how it works, but details are that states must opt out by 2014, co-ops would be included, but if a state opted out of the government plan, they couldn’t have a co-op. In summary, it’s just yet another in a long list of dressed up government plans the Democrats have trotted out trying to confuse people that it’s anything but a government plan. The stories are also interesting in that senior Democrat aides are quoted questioning the strategy and saying publicly that Reid doesn’t have the votes to pass the plan. Which raises the question, why go down this road when it loses Senator Snowe and conservative Democrats?
Dana Milbank has an answer. Milbank writes, “Of course, everybody knew that Reid didn’t have the votes. That’s why he was standing there alone, a Gang of One. As Democratic aides described it, the moment had less to do with health-care policy than with Nevada politics — and one vulnerable senator’s justifiable fear of liberal anger. Now, if the public option unexpectedly survives in the Senate, Reid keeps his hero status on the left. If it fails, he at least gets credit for trying. By the Nobel committee’s revised standards, his aspirations might even earn him the prizes in medicine and economics. “
The Washington Post has an excellent front page piece on the AARP and its conflict of interest in claiming that it represents seniors while also working behind the scenes to improve its insurance business. “The nation’s preeminent seniors group, AARP, has put the weight of its 40 million members behind health-care reform, saying many of the proposals will lower costs and increase the quality of care for older Americans. But not advertised in this lobbying campaign have been the group’s substantial earnings from insurance royalties and the potential benefits that could come its way from many of the reform proposals. … GOP lawmakers point to AARP’s thriving business in marketing branded Medigap policies, which provide supplemental coverage for standard Medicare plans available to the elderly. Democratic proposals to slash reimbursements for another program, called Medicare Advantage, are widely expected to drive up demand for private Medigap policies like the ones offered by AARP, according to health-care experts, legislative aides and documents. Republicans also question the high salaries and other perks given to some top AARP executives, who would not be subject to limits on insurance executives’ pay included in the Senate Finance Committee’s health reform package. Former AARP chief executive William Novelli received more than $1 million in compensation last year.”