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Today in Health Care Reform

The countdown begins.

9:22 AM, Mar 15, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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President Obama travels to Ohio today to hold another campaign-style rally for health care reform.

Today in Health Care Reform

Portrait of Doctor Gachet

Van Gogh

The House Democratic whip said yesterday he does not have the 216 votes necessary to pass the Senate health bill. In order to get there, he, Nancy Pelosi, and Steny Hoyer must flip some of the 39 House Democrats who voted No on the House bill last November to Yes. The latest whip count is here.

You'll note that not a single Democrat who voted No in November is counted under the "Lean Yes" or "Firm Yes" column. Meanwhile, there are 35 "Lean Nos" and "Firm Nos," and 72 "Undecided" members. The maximum number of Democratic defections is 37. The health care bill can be defeated.

The White House message operation is projecting confidence about a final vote. House leaders are considering inserting the student-loan overhaul into the reconciliation vehicle to sweeten the deal. Sorry, but this sort of Febreze politics won't be enough to cover up a health care bill that the public opposes.

The House has to vote on a bill that includes the Cornhusker Kickback, Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid, and excludes the Stupak amendment, while trusting the Senate -- the United States Senate -- to "fix" all these and other problems once the bill is passed. No wonder Red State Democrats are reluctant to vote Yes. USA Today runs down a few of the undecided House Democrats. Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway has a new survey of swing-districts showing opposition to the bill.

Conventional wisdom says "process" has dominated the health care reform debate. Once House Democrats swallow their pride and vote Yes, this argument goes, "substance" will come to the fore and Democrats will reap the benefit. I happen to think that Democrats have maneuvered themselves into a box where not passing Obamacare will lead to a 1994-like spiral of recrimination and weakness and defeat. But that doesn't mean they won't pay a price if the bill passes.

That's because the public opposes the overall substance of this bill. They agree with Robert Samuelson that "Obama's proposal is the illusion of 'reform,' not the real thing." They fear that Sarah Palin  will turn out to be right when she says that "government health care will not reduce the cost of medical care; it will simply refuse to pay it. And who will get left behind when they have to ration care to save money?" And they pay attention when Paul Ryan writes that

Through any analytical lens, the legislation will not address the central problem of skyrocketing health-care costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that families' premiums could rise 10 to 13 percent; private-sector actuarial estimates top these already high numbers. The higher costs are driven by federalizing the regulation of insurance, narrowing consumers' options and reducing competition among providers. The health-care market would be dominated by government programs and the largest insurance companies, operating as de facto government utilities.

Rather than tackle the drivers of health inflation, the legislation chases the ever-increasing premiums with huge new subsidies. Already, Washington has no idea how to pay for the unfunded promises in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- and creating this new entitlement would accelerate our path to fiscal ruin. When you strip away the double-counting, expose the hidden costs that must be funded and look at the price tag when the legislation is fully implemented, the claims of deficit reduction are as hollow as claims of cost containment.

Peter Beinart says the Obama Democrats have followed lefty historian Rick Perlstein's 2005 advice to ignore the polls and build a super-jumbo jet of liberalism. Over the next week that jet either will take off -- or end up stalled on the runway. And even if it does fly, it won't be long before it's forced to make an emergency landing somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area.

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