Federal Healthcare Update

July 16, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

We recently launched this new site and are still in the process of updating some of our archived content. Some details of this article may be incomplete, links may be broken, and other elements may not display properly yet. We appreciate your patience and understanding.


President Obama’s looming August deadline has prompted a flurry of activity in health care reform this week. Yesterday, the House released the Tri-Committee health care reform bill, officially titled H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. And with its vote today, the Senate HELP Committee became the first Committee to approve a health care reform bill.
Tri-Committee Bill Released  
The release of the House Tri-Committee health care reform bill is big news this week. After the delay of the originally planned release last Friday, House leadership and leadership of the Blue Dog Coalition have been in talks over the weekend to find a compromise all parties could agree to. Democrats still lack an official cost estimate for their bill, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet scored. A preliminary CBO estimate of the insurance expansion provisions of the bill put the total spending at just over $1 trillion over 10 years and said it would cover all but 17 million of the nation’s estimated 46 million uninsured. Half of the remaining uninsured would be illegal immigrants.
The revenue portion of the bill does include the surtax we wrote about in our previous email, an idea which was first announced last week.  The surtax would start at 1 percent and ramp up to 5.4 percent at the top of the income scale, and would apply only to individuals making more than $280,000 and married couples making more than $350,000. The House bill also includes a tax on health benefits
The three House Committees involved in this bill will start marking it up immediately, with markups scheduled to continue over the weekend. The Education and Labor Committee will lead off, with a markup beginning this evening.
HELP Committee Completes Markup
The Senate HELP Committee’s approval of their bill ends a nearly month-long markup that was conducted mostly on party lines. This partisan divide was present in the hundreds of amendments considered by the Committee, and in the final vote- a 13-10 party line split. The final legislation looks much as we expected it to. It would require individuals to obtain health insurance and require employers to help cover the costs for their workers. It would create a new, government-run insurance option to compete with private insurance plans in marketplace exchanges where individuals could compare and choose among plans. It also would make major changes to how health care is delivered, including a strong emphasis on preventive care and wellness.  And it also would cover many of the nation’s uninsured, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.
The next step for the HELP bill will be to combine it with the forthcoming Finance Committee bill, which could be marked up as early as next week. Sen. Dodd (D-CT), speaking today, dismissed any possibility of bringing the bill to the Senate floor without the Finance Committee’s product, saying “We will bring our two bills together.” This is an important next step for the health care reform process, and must be completed soon if the Senate has any hope of completing a bill before the August recess.