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What’s Happening with ObamaCare?

ABC, perhaps trying to compensate for becoming the ObamaCare PR network, has an interesting report on what the “public option” the president favors actually entails:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 23 million Americans would migrate from employer-based health care plans or other plans to a government public health care plan if one were offered. A study by health consulting firm the Lewin Group found that if a government-run plan paid at the same rate as Medicare, 70 percent of consumers currently with private insurers would jump ship for the public program.

“A government plan, no matter what you call it, will increase costs. It will reduce choices and essentially it will not allow you to keep what you have, and that is the essence of what the health care system in this country is about,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., echoing the sentiment of his fellow Republican congress members. “We ought to allow for more competition so that people can have choice.”

So much for the notion that everyone will get to keep his or her own healthcare plan. And the cost?

Republicans have seized on a CBO report that estimates the plan proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Senate Democrats will cost upward of $1 trillion over 10 years and still leave 36 million uninsured. Democrats on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee say they are revising the plan to cut that high price tag, and other committees of the Senate are also working on different bills.

Yes, they have “seized” on the nonpartisan analysis of the budget office of Congress to finally tell the American people how much this is all going to cost. (Democrats don’t “seize”; they only provide information to the public, you see.)

But the real battle is not between Republicans and Democrats — it is between competing committees and groups of Senate Democrats. Roll Call tells us:

Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions No. 2 Democrat Chris Dodd (Conn.) — who is pinch-hitting for Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) — both contend that marrying their two health care bills into a single vehicle will be seamless. But last week, it was increasingly apparent that these two Senate committees are working on separate, and conflicting, tracks.

HELP on Wednesday began marking up expensive legislation that appeared geared toward satisfying liberal health care reform goals. Meanwhile, the markup of the Finance bill was delayed from its original start date of Tuesday so that Baucus could continue to pursue a bipartisan agreement on legislation that costs less than $1 trillion and is deficit-neutral.

Dodd declares that his “goal is not bipartisanship,” while Baucus says, “I think it’s very important to get a good, bipartisan bill.” So a deal is plainly within grasp, right? Maybe not.

The question remains: what does the president want – and how does he expect to pay for it? Right now he’s laying low, as he does whenever hard decisions present themselves. There is no consensus in his own party. But pretty soon he’ll have to step forward and provide direction on his top legislative priority — or see it go down the tubes.