Federal Healthcare Update

December 9, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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Last night, the working group of five liberal and five moderate Democratic Senators reached a working compromise on the Senate health care bill, in which the public option would be sidelined in favor of a program that would create several national insurance policies.  Details on the proposal are still forthcoming, but initial reports say that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans similar to those offered to federal employees, including Members of Congress. Additionally, the plan will allow people ages 55 to 64 to buy in to Medicare.  If the private plans created under this proposal did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans then the government would offer a government-run public option, making this proposal similar to the ‘trigger’ plan favored by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) said in a press conference that he would not release details of the plan, which has been submitted to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for scoring, and reserved to right to revise and resubmit the plan if CBO scores are unsatisfactory.

Also yesterday, the Senate voted 54-45 to reject an amendment from Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) which would have matched House-passed language limiting coverage of abortions.  Last week, Sen. Nelson pledged to filibuster any bill that did not include this language.  After his bill was tabled, however, Sen. Nelson seemed to soften his stance, saying that the outcome, “made it harder to be supportive of the bill.” Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) said that Democratic leaders hoped to work with Nelson on abortion language that could satisfy both him and those who opposed his original amendment.

Senate Democrats will meet today at 5:00 p.m. to discuss their ongoing efforts to pass a health care overhaul bill.