Federal Healthcare Update

December 5, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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By Mona Mohib
The Senate continues to work on the health care bill, voting on several amendments this past week.  Thursday, the Senate voted 61 to 39 on an amendment from Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to that would eliminate co-payments for mammograms and other preventive services for women, requiring instead that insurers provide full coverage. This amendment was largely a reaction to recent recommendations from a federal advisory panel that said routine mammograms should begin at age 50, rather than 40. The Senate voted against an amendment from Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to cut the Medicare savings from the bill 58 to 42. The $450 billion in savings from Medicare constitute the single largest source of funding for the bill. The Senate did, however, unanimously adopt an amendment proposed by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to ensure that no guaranteed Medicare benefits would be taken away as a result of the legislation.
Several amendments that have not yet been considered will likely cause a great deal of debate. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) will offer an amendment to limit executive pay for health insurance companies. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) will offer an amendment to include Stupak-style abortion funding restrictions, and has said he will filibuster the final bill if it does not contain this language. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is working on an amendment with an alternative to the public option that would act much like the ‘trigger’ option supported by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) has also been working on a public option alternative, which would function as a middle ground between the ‘trigger’ option and the immediate implementation of a public option. Under his plan, states that did not meet certain benchmarks would have to implement a public option immediately. And yesterday, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Arlen Specter (D-PA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) held a press conference to announce their package of bi-partisan cost containment amendments.
The Senate convened a rare Saturday session today and a group of moderate Democrats and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) continued conversations about a possible compromise on a public plan.  President Obama will travel to Capitol Hill tomorrow for a meeting of the Senate Democratic caucus.