With Friday's announcement of an agreement among "centrist" senators, President Obama seems to have the votes he needs (but barely) to get the economic stimulus package passed by the Senate.
Not that this will be the end of the story.
There are major differences between the (modified) Senate bill and the version passed by the House of Representatives. These differences have to be worked out between House and Senate negotiators and then voted on again by both chambers. Concessions to the House could make the package vulnerable in the Senate, where a switch of just one vote could bring it down. Too many concessions to the Senate, though, will be resisted by House Democrats and their allies.
On Friday, ACP weighed in with our priorities for stimulus. How did we fare?
The Senate agreement preserves more than $20 billion in funding for health information technology and more than $1 billion for comparative effectiveness, but eliminates $600 million for primary care training programs supported by ACP. It trims COBRA subsidies for people who lose their jobs. Both the House and Senate provide the same amount of money to prop up state Medicaid programs. Unlike the House, the Senate does not give additional money to the states to extend Medicaid coverage to temporarily unemployed low-income persons. ACP will ask Congress to restore the money for primary care and increase the funding for COBRA and Medicaid.
Although the stimulus bill is the big story today - as it should be, given the amount of money involved and the stakes for the economy - it is only a down payment, at best, on broader health care reforms. Which raises the question: what will President Obama and Congress decide do next?
Jonathan Cohn writes in the New Republic blog about Obama's plans to make health care reform a "central focus" of his first budget. He quotes the New America Foundation's Len Nichols, an economist and longtime reform advocate: "If they put [health care] in the budget, and fully fund it, then they are demonstrating a profound commitment to health care as an integral part of the agenda. And I welcome that."
And in other good news for health care reform, the New Health Dialogue blog writes that "Two key Senate Democrats, Max Baucus and Edward Kennedy, jointly and publicly reiterated their commitment to major health reform this year, with or without the help of Tom Daschle."
Today's question: After stimulus, what do you think the President and Congress should do next to reform health care?