I just got off the phone with Andy Stern, head of SEIU. For the past few years, Stern has been manically building coalitions. This, it seems, was the payoff: The ultimate health care coalition. Every major industry group. And SEIU was at the table with them.
Stern acknowledged that the early release is light on specifics. But that, he argued, was a function of it being early. "We set a deadline of June 1st to try to provide real proposals that can be costed. It'll be complicated to decide what goes in the legislation. But we'll have competent people providing verifiable savings." That deadline is important. June is when the Finance Committee's first bill drops. So if these stakeholders want to see their proposals in that bill, then they need to move quickly.
Asked about the possible flashpoints in the discussions, Stern said that "there was more of a recognition that we weren't going to agree on certain things. People came to the table with an admission that there were lines -- like the public plan, for SEIU -- that weren't going to be crossed and so weren't going to be a part of this conversation. Instead, we focused on what we could agree on on."
"I thought there was a level of seriousness on both sides about really finding the right way to cut costs, to look at health care as a system, and not just a system for payments, but a system for actually keeping people healthy," he continued. "So far, everyone has exceeded expectations."