Federal Healthcare Update

July 28, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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By: Mona Mohib

The House
The protracted battle over health care reform in the Energy and Commerce Committee continues this week. Late last night, Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced that the Committee would not be able to go forward with its markup of the health care reform bill today. 
In negotiations between Rep. Waxman and the Blue Dog Democrats last night, Waxman offered a compromise plan that he said addressed the Blue Dog list of concerns, which we wrote about in our last email. The Blue Dogs, however, said that they wanted to wait for an official CBO score of the compromise plan before agreeing to anything.
Although Rep. Waxman had hinted that it was possible to bring the bill to the floor without the Energy and Commerce markup, Democratic leadership in the House vetoed that plan this week, preferring to work through the markup process as a way to build consensus for the bill in advance of a floor vote. In light of the postponed markup, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House would be unable to vote on the bill before Friday, when the August recess is scheduled to start. However, he said that House leadership has “other days available,” indicating the possibility of a weekend vote or of postponing the recess for another week. 
The Senate
The rumors coming out of the ongoing Senate Finance Committee negotiations indicate that the Committee may be moving closer to an agreement. This agreement would include eliminating two health care provisions favored by many Democrats: a mandate on employers to provide insurance or pay a penalty, and a government insurance option. While this will almost certainly bring the negotiating group closer to a compromise that could get a yes vote from several Republicans on the Committee, it will also certainly increase the pressure on Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who has been accused by some more liberal senators and activist groups of sacrificing key Democratic priorities to win the votes of a few Republicans.   Instead of an employer mandate, the compromise would include a ‘free rider’ provision that would require employers to pay for employees who receive coverage through Medicaid or who receive new government subsidies to purchase insurance through an exchange.
The Administration
President Obama is now facing major activity on health care reform occurring in September, later than he had originally hoped.  Today, Obama continued to stump for health reform, appearing at a tele-town hall at AARP headquarters.