Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yesterday's Most Important Health-Reform News

All the newspaper ink and TeeVee bloviating today is focusing on President Obama's speech and South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson's desperate need for anger management counseling -- not to mention brains.

But the most important health reform news of yesterday is the elevation of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to the chairmanship of the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). That's the same committee once headed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Differences between any health reform bill that passes both the Senate and the House of Representatives will have to be reconciled by negotiators. And under Senate rules, the chairman of the Senate's HELP Committee will have "a key role" in that reconciliation process.

As recently as last week, Senator Harkin was telling his home state newspaper that he thinks a "new public insurance plan" is essential to effective health reform. That's the public option.

We've followed Harkin's career for many years. It's a certainty that on the public option, he won't go down without a fight. At a minimum, it's as sure as anything can be right now that Tom Harkin will insist on a roll call vote for the public option.

Good speeches are nice, of course. Bad speech can have good, even if unintended, consequences, too, or so it appears. But in a matter as vitally important to the welfare of the nation as health care reform, when crunch time comes it's good to know at least one honest, intelligent, Senator who hasn't been bought off will be in the thick of things.

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