Federal Healthcare Update

June 17, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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This week, parties in the health care debate are focused on building support for their positions. The President addressed a group of doctors who have reservations about some of his positions on health care, while the House GOP leadership released details of their alternative health care plan. Recently released Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates may be troubling for Democrats, and all eyes remain on the Senate Finance Committee as we wait for their legislation.
On Monday, President Obama spoke to the American Medical Association (AMA), which recently made news by publicly opposing the inclusion of a public option in a health care reform bill. In what many are calling his most forceful words on health care since taking office, Obama outlined his major goals for health care reform, including some the AMA approved of, and others the doctors disliked. Although President Obama did not back down from his support for the public option, he did emphasize that he does not support a single-payer plan, saying, “There are countries where a single-payer system may be working. But I believe- and I’ve even taken some flak from members of my own party for this belief- that it is important for us to build on our traditions here in the United States.  So, when you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: they are not telling the truth.”
Also this week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a cost estimate for the HELP Committee bill discussed in last week’s email. The CBO estimated that the bill would cost over $1 trillion over the next decade and leave about 37 million people uninsured. This is bad news for supporters of the bill, as this estimate falls well below the President’s goal to insure all Americans.  Some Congressional Republicans see this as an opportunity to win over the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats. However, many Democrats point to the fact that the CBO analyzed an incomplete bill, claiming that including employer mandates and a public option would decrease the number of uninsured, which would exponentially increase health care savings across the board.
Closely following the release of these CBO numbers, the House GOP task force on health care, a group appointed by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), outlined its health care proposal today. Included in the proposal are provisions to enact comprehensive medical liability reform and to fight waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans are touting the plan as “commonsense reforms that make health care more affordable, reduce the number of uninsured Americans and increase quality at a price our country can afford.”
Something that is sure to get attention in Washington this week is the recently released Bipartisan Policy Center’s health care plan. Written by former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, this proposal is a bipartisan framework for comprehensive health care reform.  Their package includes individual and employer mandates, tax credits for small businesses that offer coverage, state and regional exchanges, and no federal public plan- but the ability for states to establish plans with federal technical assistance, as well as the establishment of an independent Health Care Council to promote coordination among federal health care programs.

The HELP Committee’s markup of health care legislation started today, and is tentatively scheduled every day through June 26th.  We are still awaiting legislation from the Senate Finance Committee and a bill from the House.