Adding 15 Million to the Rolls of Medicaid, CHIP
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 04:38:24 PM EST
Ezra Klein is getting pessimistic about the chances healthcare reform will pass based on comments by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and I don't think he's wrong to be.
But at the risk of beating a dead horse, I really think it's worth considering what is being given up by giving up on healthcare reform: The prospect of advancing the cause of universal healthcare.
The Senate bill is not a perfect bill -- but it is a bill that does a lot of good. Looking at just the toplines, the bill will ensure that 30 million more people have health insurance than currently do today. In doing so, the bill would also decrease the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next two decades.
Many have chided the Senate bill for not including a public option. This of course overlooks the fact that the House was unable to round up even a simple majority for the type of robust public option -- one with rates tied to Medicare -- that could actually help reduce costs. Nevertheless, this is a fair criticism.
That said, this criticism does miss a key aspect of the Senate healthcare bill: Half of those 30 million newly covered under the legislation would be enrolled in a government program. Here's the relevant portion of the CBO score (.pdf):
By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 31 million, leaving about 23 million nonelderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants). Under the legislation, the share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage would rise from about 83 percent currently to about 94 percent. Approximately 26 million people would purchase their own coverage through the new insurance exchanges, and there would be roughly 15 million more enrollees in Medicaid and CHIP than is projected under current law. [Emphasis added]
Enrolling 15 million more Americans in a government healthcare program, as well as enabling an additional net 16 million to access health insurance -- in the process increasing "the share of legal nonelderly residence with insurance coverage from about 83 percent currently to about 84 percent," while also reducing the deficit by more than $1 trillion -- still seems like a worthwhile achievement, even if not a perfect one. And considering that the alternative appears to be doing nothing, or close to it, I'm not sure that it doesn't make sense for the House to pass the Senate bill.