Health care reform discussion has moved behind closed doors in Congress, but chances are high that a bill will pass this year -- even if it doesn't do all that much to revamp the nation's swelling $2.5 trillion health care system.
"Reform was thrown under the bus months ago," said Ethan Siegal, an analyst at The Washington Exchange. "The healthcare legislation is significant. It's going to affect almost every healthcare ... sector, but it is not game changing."
Democratic leaders are hammering out two bills to bring for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate before finalizing a single plan for President Barack Obama to sign into law. Democrats have said they will pass it this year.
Although it is not yet clear what the final bills will look like, Obama has said he wants to expand the number of people with insurance while controlling costs.
More than 46 million people living in the United States lack health insurance, while healthcare costs make up roughly 16 percent of the nation's economy and are growing twice as fast as inflation, Reuters reports.
It was also reported, earlier this month, President Barack Obama said that an "unprecedented consensus has come together behind" health-care reform. As recently as June, public opinion polls supported such a proposition. That month a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 64% of Americans agreed that the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all.
That consensus has unraveled. According to the September version of the same poll, support for federally guaranteed universal coverage had fallen to 51%. As Americans learn about the trade-offs health-care reform will require, their enthusiasm for it wanes.
Only 40.8% of Americans said they would be somewhat or very likely to support a policy similar to those being considered by Congress—a subsidy for private insurance that would reduce the number of uninsured by one-half. More modest proposals (such as expanding Medicaid) that would reduce the number of uninsured by one-quarter received slightly greater support, but still less than a majority, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In the meantime, Friday President Obama will travel to Massachusetts, one of only two states to implement a universal health-care program similar to his ambitions for the entire country. But he does not plan to use the trip to make his case for far-reaching reform; he will tout clean energy and raise money for the Democratic governor.
The president's critics say his reluctance to spotlight the Massachusetts model is real-world evidence that his vision would not work on a national scale. High costs have forced the state to trim benefits for legal immigrants and prompted one safety-net hospital to sue over a $38 million shortfall.
Obama's allies -- and even one prominent adversary -- see a more nuanced picture that offers guideposts for federal lawmakers as they finalize decisions on a bill that could reshape one-sixth of the economy, The Washington Post reports.