Odds of passing health care bill getting slimmer

Freedom New Mexico

There is a certain surreal air to the discussion surrounding a new White House health care reform proposal and the upcoming “summit” on health care between President Obama and congressional Republicans scheduled Thursday. Proponents of government-oriented health insurance reform confidently predict that if the president can simply expose the Republicans as obstructionists with no constructive proposals of their own, the way will be clear to pass the latest version of Obamacare to the applause of the American people.

How to do it? Simply have the Democratic-controlled House pass the Senate bill and take care of any minor changes through the “reconciliation” process, which requires 51 votes on matters affecting budget and tax policies. The Obama proposal, released Sunday, is essentially the Senate version with a few tweaks, including modifying the tax on high-end health plans, giving more subsidies to low-and middle-income people, increasing Medicare prescription drug coverage, reducing payments to Medicare Advantage plans and giving the government power to control private insurance prices.

The premise behind this scenario is that there is an insatiable majority desire out there for beefing up the government’s power and reducing the number of uninsured Americans. The problem with this assumption is that, as the Tea Party and Town Hall activism and the recent senatorial election in Massachusetts should have demonstrated to anyone paying attention, it is simply not true.

Pollster.com compiles an average of almost all the recognized national polls on various candidates and issues. On the Democratic health care plan, Those opposed surpassed those in favor in July, and opposition has increased steadily. The composite most recently stood at 41.3 percent in favor and 51.7 percent opposed. President Obama’s poll numbers on handling health care are even more dramatic: 54.2 percent disapprove and 38.1 percent approve.

The House passed its version of reform 220-215, many in favor only because of the anti-abortion Stupak amendment, which is not in the Senate version and can’t be placed there through reconciliation. House Democrats since have lost three votes (by death, resignation and reversal) and have an unknown number of other waverers. It is also uncertain now whether Democrats can muster 51 Senate votes for a proposal that only a minority of Americans support.

Make no mistake, the Obama administration and congressional leaders are still likely to push as hard as they can for some kind of reform bill. Their prospects, however, appear rather slim.