Federal Healthcare Update

June 19, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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This week has seen some changes, surprises, and upsets in the march to comprehensive health care reform. Until now, few have doubted President Obama’s ability to pass significant health care reform legislation, but several developments may now be placing that goal in some jeopardy. The Senate Finance Committee is a center of attention this week, announcing a delay in the release of their bill, and facing speculation about what that bill will contain after some leaked documents raised concerns with some Democrats in Washington. Another focus is the House, where the Tri-Committee health care reform bill was released today.
Due to growing concerns over cost considerations, the Senate Finance Committee has delayed the release of its bill until after the July 4th recess. Many see this delay as trouble for the Democrats, whose tight timeline may be jeopardized by this move. Also bringing attention to the Finance Committee this week is a leaked document that has been making the rounds. This document, a discussion draft from a Members-only meeting of the Committee, outlines several possible provisions of the Finance Committee health care bill, and has many Democrats up in arms. The proposal would require most people to buy health insurance, authorize an expansion of Medicaid coverage, and most importantly, create consumer-owned cooperative plans as an alternative to the public option.
The three House Committees with a stake in health care legislation, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor, released their legislation today. The bill, dubbed the ‘Tri-Committee Bill’ does not include information on how the measure will be funded, but is a welcome first look at the House’s plans.  As expected, the plan includes a health insurance exchange, prevention and wellness, workforce investments, and a public insurance option.  The draft also includes insurance market reforms and reforms to Medicare and Medicaid payments aimed at increasing efficiency.

The Senate HELP Committee markup of health care legislation will continue with time tentatively slated for the markup every day through the 26th of June. On Thursday, the Committee voted on fewer than twenty of the 300 amendments offered for consideration on the bill; Senator Dodd (D-CT) said, “We’re making progress, albeit it’s slow.”