Yeah, I was pretty steamed when Senator Joe Lieberman decided to yank the rug from under the Senate health care reform bill over the medicare buy-in compromise for 55 – 64 year olds — a plan he was for before he was against. And yep, I wrote the White House with the “I’d rather wait than have an ineffective health care bill.” Even former DNC chair Dr. Howard Dean, echoed my sentiments (and frustrations) with a Quentin Tarantinoesque (or a Tea Party redux) “kill the bill” proposition. Next step would be for the Dems in the Senate to go into reconciliation after both the public option and the medicare buy-in (acceptable to Dean and other progressive Democrats) were put on the chopping block in exchange for the Lieberman vote.

But then, Mike Lux chimed in with “hold the powder for the moment.” And now an update on what to do with the “imperfect” bill in play. Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight has also called a time-out for ““20 questions.” My personal favorite:

How many of the arguments that you might be making against the bill are being made out of anger, frustration, or a desire to ring Joe Lieberman by his scruffy, no-good, backstabbing neck?

But Kos has some interesting answers to Nate’s 20 questions with the finish:

Lieberman may be petty about this, but I’m not. I settle those grudges on the electoral battlefield, not the policy one.

Kos also adds the reminder that Democratic Senator MikeMax Baucus of Montana was the first to put the speed bumps on the road to health care reform. Thank goodness someone’s keeping score. Then the spotlight shifted from Lieberman to Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska who became the hold out for stricter anti-abortion laws in the bill. Even if we’re talking about giraffes, the abortion debate seems to creep into every debate in Congress. According to Talking Points Memo — which for me has the best play-by-play updates on this road to the vote) — Reid threw money at the problem/Nelson, giving more medicaid funds to the state of Nebraska and giving states some kind of opt-out on insurance pools that cover abortion.

Today Senator Ted Kennedy’s widow Victoria Reggie Kennedy submitted an op-ed to the Washington Post (I’m sure at the request of the White House and Kennedy’s friends on the Hill). Vicki reminds us of the lessons of history.

In the early 1970s, Ted worked with the Nixon administration to find consensus on health-care reform. Those efforts broke down in part because the compromise wasn’t ideologically pure enough for some constituency groups. More than 20 years passed before there was another real opportunity for reform, years during which human suffering only increased. Even with the committed leadership of then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, reform was thwarted in the 1990s. As Ted wrote in his memoir, he was deeply disappointed that the Clinton health-care bill did not come to a vote in the full Senate. He believed that senators should have gone on the record, up or down.

This game’s been in overtime for awhile. At some point, you just don’t know what or who you’re rooting for anymore.

It looks as if the mutually agreed “imperfect” Senate bill has its 60 votes after some serious wheeling and dealing by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And let’s not forget about the House bill which is also still in play. The House bill may be more generous on benefits, but stricter on abortion rights via Rep. Bart Stupack‘s efforts to guarantee that no health care plan public or private with subsidies from the U.S. government would finance abortion procedures. He’s now gaming up and caucusing with unshakable anti-choice Republicans for the next round.

This road to a health care reform bill has been gamesmanship at its worst on all sides. Maybe it’s bad sportmanship. I guess this is what you get the year before a mid-term election. The debate over health care reform has basically been a spit ball fight with sucker punches thrown in for effect. And let’s be honest; the elephant in the room is “greed.” (read into that what you will) I never thought this would be easy, but I also didn’t think it would be as challenging as achieving world peace. You know, good in principle; nearly impossible to achieve. Earthlings may be living in colonies on Mars before there is universal health care or any watered down version like a public option in the U.S.

Bottom line for me is what is in this final bill? Not the fluctuating bill – the FINAL. One thing I don’t want are surprise endings down the road, the kind I and others got when Ronald Reagan “saved” Social Security in 1983. This was hailed as a bipartisan effort. Though Reagan’s cohorts were grandfathered under the old plan and got their’s, the new plan deprived the middle class, (not the wealthy) born after Reagan’s birth year, income that would off-set their slide into “low income” upon retirement; and forced college students to withdraw from the schools of their choice when survivor benefits that parents requested to be withheld from their federal work paychecks were cut. I know this as these things hit close to home. Come to think of it, was this when the word “entitlement” was introduced to replace “benefits”?

The debate over the FINAL bill is not over yet. Insurance companies apparently are poised for a windfall with the mandate for everyone to be insured with no public option competition to temper costs. Older Americans will pay twice as much as younger Americans, but that means they won’t be paying 10 times as much without reform. So in simple math terms does that mean 4×2=8 vs. 4×10=40?

And from Vicki’s op-ed:
–Thirty million Americans who do not have coverage would finally be able to afford it. Ninety-four percent of Americans would be insured. Americans would finally be able to live without fear that a single illness could send them into financial ruin.

— Insurance companies would no longer be able to deny people the coverage they need because of a preexisting illness or condition. They would not be able to drop coverage when people get sick. And there would be a limit on how much they can force Americans to pay out of their own pockets when they do get sick.

— Small-business owners would no longer have to fear being forced to lay off workers or shut their doors because of exorbitant insurance rates. Medicare would be strengthened for the millions of seniors who count on it.

— And by eliminating waste and inefficiency in our health-care system, this bill would bring down the deficit over time.

So I’ll find my helmet. At least this time I was paying more attention and warned of some of the potential bumps in the road. For the sake of not having to wait another 20 years – FULL SPEED AHEAD. 2010 is the time to support candidates who will continue the work towards better reform. If nothing else this game has definitely showed us the current players for who they really are. For now, health care reform may mean winning the game with a field goal instead of a touch down.

The President’s Weekly follows up on the debate about consumer protections in the plan.