So many of us have gotten so immersed in aspects of the health reform conversation—costs, crowd-out, public health insurance plan, mandates—that it's easy to overlook the following:
For the first time in 15 years, a Congressional committee has taken up legislation that seeks to provide affordable health coverage for all Americans while controlling costs and improving value.
Senators on both sides of the aisle in the Senate HELP Committee acknowledge historic nature of today as they started marking up the American Health Choices Act (615-page pdf) this morning. They paid tribute to the absent Senator Edward Kennedy for his tireless work on this issue. They acknowledged the opportunity before them and the imperative for action. Then, they started the process of trying to craft legislation that could reshape and redefine health care in America.
Senator Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who has been leaading the effort on Kennedy's behalf, began by acknowledging the difficulty of the task, but he stressed, "I don't think there's an ounce of difference about the principles we are trying to achieve," and assured members that "when it comes down to it we're going to get this right." Paraphrasing Edward Murrow, Dodd concluded: "The one excuse that history will never forgive you for is that the problem's too hard."
The Committee will reconvene at 2:30 pm and continue with opening statements. A webcast of the session is available here. The events are also being broadcast as C-Span 3 and you can follow our live play-by-play on Twitter. Here's a quick rundown of this morning's highlights: