Wake Up, Health Care Spectators – It’s About to Get Interesting

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There has been a lot of intrigue on the Hill today about what’s happening in the health reform saga. For those of you dozing off, perk up. Next week is shaping up to be a big one.

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid officially informed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, via letter, that Senate Democrats intend to use reconciliation to get through a series of changes to the Senate bill. (This seems like a formality, but it’s Reid’s way of assuring nervous House Democrats that their counterparts in the Senate won’t abandon them once the main Senate bill passes.)

* The Senate parliamentarian says that President Obama must sign the Senate health reform bill before the Senate can vote on a package of changes to the legislation. (The parliamentarian issued the ruling after GOP lawmakers requested he do so. The fact that House Democrats were hoping both chambers could pass a series of fixes to the Senate bill before the Senate bill itself is passed shows how much distrust there is right now within the ranks of congressional Democrats.)

* Republicans clearly think Democrats have a real shot at bringing health reform across the finish line. Sen. Lindsey Graham says immigration reform, an issue he’s been working on with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, is dead on arrival if the Democrats use reconciliation to pass changes to the Senate bill. Hm.

* Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continue to resist reform deadlines – they’ve missed every single one they’ve set in the past year – but there are signs House committees may get to work next week and that a full vote might happen by next Friday.

* The White House continues to hammer WellPoint for its recent rate hikes.

* Rep. Henry Waxman says Pelosi doesn’t need Stupak and his gang of pro-life Democratic House members threatening to vote against the Senate bill.

* There were a ton of short stories in the political press today about House Democrats switching from yesses to nos and from nos to yesses, but I’m with Ezra Klein who says there’s no point in keeping a close tally at this point.

* I don’t have any links, but Twitter was aflutter today about when the Congressional Budget Office will release its score of the package of fixes to the Senate bill. We could see the score as early as tomorrow, but I wouldn’t be surprised to go into the weekend without it. Once the score is released, it’s game on. Then the real whip count can begin and all eyes will be on Pelosi.

* And – fun fodder for policy wonks like me – President Obama’s recent physical was a good example of how money is wasted in the health care system.

(On an unrelated note, Harry Reid’s wife and daughter were in what sounds like a pretty bad car accident today. Although Reid’s wife has a broken neck, his office says none of the pair’s injuries are life-threatening. We wish them a speedy recovery.)

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