The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Posts Tagged ‘student loans’

Health Care Reform Surrealism

Posted by Alan on March 12, 2010

It’s finally happened. The health care reform has at last officially passed into the Twilight Zone. How else to explain the idea under serious consideration in the Senate to make student loan reforms a part of the health care reform package. Yes. Really.

Follow this down the rabbit hole:

The Obama Administration wants to remove banks from the student loan process. This would apparently shift money in the program that currently goes to overhead and/or bank profits to tuition payments, helping more students for the same amount of spending. (I’m surer the issue is far more complicated than this, but this is a health care reform blog so this description will do). Legislation to implement these reforms has passed the House, but has stalled in the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. Sound familiar? The way around this dilemma is for Democrats to pass student loan reform through the reconciliation But to do that appears to require combining the student loan and health care reform bills into a single piece of legislation.

A fair question at this point might be, “Huh?”

Reconciliation, you’ll recall, allows passage of spending and tax bills with a simple majority. Reconciliation is the path the Senate will take in passing the clean-up legislation the House is demanding in exchange for passing the Senate’s health care reform bill. And there’s the rub.

It seems the reconciliation process can be used but once per year (or maybe session – I’ll edit this post once I find the answer). Which means that if reconciliation is used to pass the health care reform clean-up bill it would no longer be available to get the student loan reform legislation through the Senate. Or vice versa. So the solution is to combine the two into one bill.

This legislative mash-up may make sense from a parliamentary perspective, but it makes no sense to the general public. Instead, it will smack  of legislative trickery, something that has already soured much of the population on the current  health care reform bill. By adding to the through-the-looking-glass surrealism of the legislative process, combining student loan and health care reforms will only confirm to voters the feeling they have that Washing, D.C. is a reality-free zone.

Of course, such Carroll-esque lawmaking has been done before. The law that allows employees to keep their employer’s coverage after they leave the company is referred to as COBRA – which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (of 1985). In the past I’ve focused  on the “R” in COBRA standing for reconciliation. But it appears the “O,” for omnibus, is just as significant. That legislation addressed more than continuity of medical insurance coverage. Which means there’s precedent for asking one reconciliation bill to carry disparate legislative burdens.

Just because there’s precedent, however, doesn’t mean this strange development to an already strained legislative process is any less, well, strange.

Posted in Barack Obama, Health Care Reform, Healthcare Reform, Politics | Tagged: , | 49 Comments »