In case you were wondering, we’ve been at this a year now

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Dedicated to affordable, quality healthcare and coverage for all Americans.

By Consumers Union on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

In an effort to craft a compromise between those who oppose any government role and those who believe healthcare should be entirely a government function, lawmakers have handed the public a bill that relies entirely on the private market while government helps people pay the bill and sets out rules so that private companies will behave better. Neither the left nor the right are satisfied, but its hard to see how it could have come out any other way.

It took a year to get to this point–with efforts to reach compromises large and small dating back to this time last year. And not to forget, we’ve been on this hay ride before–1993, 1977, 1971, 1965, 1945 (check out the timeline in pictures here).

As a reminder, bipartisan negotiation over health reform didn’t start in December, or even back in the fall. Congress got serious about crafting health reform and began debate about options more than a year ago, shortly after the new administration took office. There have been countless hearings, half a dozen bills, and negotiations over issues large and small.

Just to run through the highlights (there’s far too much to list it all):

February 26, 2009: Obama “formally launched” a drive for health reform at a forum of lawmakers and 120 health policy experts in Washington.

Mr. Baucus and Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said they were aiming to put together a healthcare bill by June.

Representative Joe Barton, the top Republican on the House panel that leads on healthcare, complimented the president on getting all sides together and said “if this is a real process and we’re listened to, folks like me will participate.”

March 24, 2009: Senate HELP committee holds hearings on insurance market reforms in comprehensive healthcare reform.

March 24-April 2, 2009: House Energy and Commerce holds a series of hearings (posted here, here, here and here) on a variety of issues in health reform, from cost to access to care.

April 28, 2009: Senate HELP committee holds hearings on lessons learned from state health reform efforts.

April 29, 2009: Baucus (D) and Grassley (R) issue bipartisan policy options paper outlining some approaches to reforming the way care is delivered for broader discussion.

April 30, 2009: Senate HELP committee holds hearings on primary healthcare access.

May 14 and 20, 2009: Baucus and Grassley issue options for financing comprehensive reform and options for covering everyone also for broader discussion and consideration.

May 14, 2009: Senate HELP holds hearings on innovative ways to improve how we deliver primary and specialty care.

June 11-17, 2009: Senate HELP holds hearings on options for comprehensive reform, bringing together many stakeholders.

June 17, 2009: Those good feelings are already eroding. After months of negotiation in key committees, lawmakers began to slip their deadlines.

Grassley said closed-door negotiations for a bipartisan health reform bill in the Senate Finance Committee hit a snag, delaying an important cost estimate of that bill. But he expressed optimism that the committee will be able to reach a bipartisan healthcare reform bill.

June 25, 2009: House Energy and Commerce closes three days of hearings on a discussion draft of comprehensive health reform legislation.

July 15-30, 2009: House Education and Labor considers “tri-committee” bill that merges its efforts with that of Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees.

July 16, 2009: House Ways and Means committee considers its version of HR 3200.

July 31, 2009: House Energy and Commerce closes five days of discussion and amendments to H.R. 3200, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009”.

September 16-22, 2009: Senate Finance issues America’s Healthy Future Act, CBO issues estimates, amendments from both parties are put forward and worked into a “Chairman’s markup.”

October 2-21, 2009: America’s Healthy Future Act is amended in committee, the CBO reports on the amended version, and the committee reports out the bill.

November 3 and 10, 2009: Senate HELP holds hearings on the cost of health insurance for small business and the cost of being sick.

November 7, 2009: House passes Affordable Healthcare for America Act.

December 24, 2009: The Senate strikes everything from the House bill and substitutes its own language as amended.

And then the negotiations to find common ground between the House and Senate begin. For a year, we’ve been having open and public debate about a range of options to reduce the cost of insurance, improve care, and much more. There’s been vote after vote, and the issues in dispute have gotten narrower and narrower. Was the process perfect. No doubt the answer is no. But it has been a thoughtful process with impressive contributions by both Democrats and Republicans. So after more than a year, its time to finish it.

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