Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Daily Strike-1/14/10-A Deal...With Major Caveats

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. I'm trying to stay positive on the Massachusetts Senate election and health reform. *Deep Breath*.

HEALTH CARE: There is some potentially very good news on the health care front this evening. The White House has reached a deal with the major unions on a contentious issue, the so-called excise tax on high-cost insurance plans. Unions were opposed to the tax, because oftentimes, union workers get great health benefits in lieu of higher wages. Under the Senate bill, the excise tax would apply to plans over $23,000 and would be indexed with inflation (slightly more than the increase in the Consumer Price Index). Under the compromise, the threshold of the plan would move to $24,000, and unionized workers would be exempt from the tax until 2017 so that they'd have the opportunity renegotiate their benefits package. Also, vision and dental packages wouldn't be included in the taxable benefits. There are also reports that as part of the deal, the health insurance exchange would be open to more employers after 2017.

I think this is a very good deal for both unions and the White House. The excise tax is important because it can discourage people from buying high-cost plans, and thus can help bend the proverbial "cost curve." With the deal in place, unions will have time to make negotiate benefits packages that won't be subject to the tax.

White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said that House and Senate leaders are close to resolving the other remaining issues. It is possible that they could submit a final bill to the Congressional Budget Office by tomorrow evening. Nothing can stop us now! Nothing....!!.....

MA-SEN:....except this stupid Massachusetts Senate race! Every deal the White House makes will be for naught of the Democrats don't win in the Bay State. A new poll out today from Research 2000 shows Democrat Martha Coakley with an 8 point lead over Republican Scott Brown. Curiously, both of the major political prognosticators, Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg, decided today to change the race to "tossup." I'm not sure why they did this today, when the only poll that came out seemed favorable to Coakley.

The Democrats are pouring loads of money into the race, and they apparently have a very strong get-out-the-vote operation. They will need that operation to make up for an enthusiastic Republican Party. At this point, I'm still saying the race leans towards Coakley.

HAITI: The President had to pay a good deal of attention today to the crisis in Haiti. Having watched TV footage last night, it was pretty gruesome. The President has asked former Presidents Bush (43) and Clinton to launch a public relations campaign to solicit contributions for the victims. A bunch of liberals are complaining about the fact that President Bush is involved in this, especially considering his performance during Hurricane Katrina. But I'm glad Obama tapped Bush, especially if it encourages Republicans to help the government's rescue efforts. I think everyone deserves a chance to do some good....

That's it for today. See you tomorrow! We'll be looking out for the results of a Suffolk poll of the MA-SEN race tomorrow.

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