Democrats are pushing Senate leaders to rework their health care bills so that at least some benefits kick in by the 2010 and 2012 elections. As currently formulated, the bill would bring the pain immediately, in the form of $100 billion in industry fees, but its reforms mostly wouldn’t kick in until 2013. “We want to have as much front-ended as possible,” says Debbie Stabenow, “even though we know all of it can’t” be.
Polls show that voters are largely unaware that the plan will take so long to start working. But Democrats believe it’s too complicated—and cost prohibitive—to implement immediately, so they’re looking for low-cost aspects to phase in early. Among the possibilities: discounts for seniors on brand-name drugs, tax credits for small businesses, and a $5 billion high-risk pool to cover people with preexisting conditions.