The team, coming together…

Some of the players of the federal health reform effort are coming together:

A new health reform policy team was announced by President-elect Obama earlier this week, getting good reviews from Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic.

Congressman Dingell might still be a player on health reform, looking at the subcommittee that oversees health care. Either way, any proposal coming out of the House of Representatives will be heavily influences by Californians: Speaker Pelosi; Chairmen Miller, Stark, and Waxman; and many members on key committees, or in leadership positions of key caucuses.

In the Senate, our California Senators Boxer and Feinstein tend to specialize on other issues, so the leadership will come from Senate Majority Leader Reid, Chairmen Baucus and Kennedy, as well as others. The chairmen met together with key other Senators to commit to working on health care, including Democratic Senators Rockefeller and Dodd, and interestingly, Republican Senators Enzi and Hatch. Senators Harkin and Mikulski (and Clinton, although she is presumed to start another role outside the Senate) have taken up task forces to work with Kennedy.

The Senate is being watched carefully, because of the requirement to need 60 votes to pass most legislation. While there are exceptions that might allow for a simple majority, some observers believe for something so major as health care, you need even more votes. I may disagree with such a high bar, but clearly, there will be a challenge to get some Republicans and even conservative Democrats.

That’s why Senator Wyden’s bill, as controversial as elements of it are, still gets attention, given its bipartisan support, from Democratic Senators Carper, Nelson, Stabenow, Landrieu, Inouye, Cantwell, but also Senator Lieberman and Republican Senators Bennett, Alexander, Gregg, Grassley, Coleman, Crapo, Smith, and Corker.

While there’s overlap, that’s not the obvious list of more “moderate” Republican Senators, or even those from “Obama” states, like Collins and Snowe from Maine, Specter from Pennsylvania, Voinovich from Ohio, Lugar from Indiana, Grassley from Iowa, Burr from North Carolina, Martinez from Florida, Ensign from Nevada, and Gregg from New Hampshire.

We still have yet to see if Democrats have 58-60 seats, with Senate seats in Minnesota and Georgia still undecided. And then there’s Senator McCain, who was willing to support some health reforms earlier in his career, on prescription drug reimportation and HMO consumer protections, but never comprehensive reform, and he in fact ran for President on a plan that went in the complete opposite direction. He didn’t even join many of these other Republicans in support of SCHIP expansion last year. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in this debate.

Some of these folks, Republicans and even conservative Democrats, have been supportive of issues like SCHIP expansions. But the debate to come is another matter: Getting them to support other health reform components, such as aggressive oversight on the insurance industry, or setting a minimum standard for employer-based benefits, will be the challenge.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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