KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Holdouts Threatening ’09 Health Care Reform Bill Passage

The Washington Post: "The next 48 hours will be critical to the fate of health-care reform in the Senate, as Democratic leaders struggle to settle disputes that stand in the way of holding a final vote this year on the massive package reports on the distance among senators that has to be bridged before a bill can pass." By mid-week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev., must by "begin the process of ending debate on the $848 billion bill or risk missing his deadline of final passage by Christmas, pushing the contentious health-care debate into early 2010." To do this, he must maintain the backing of 60 Senators, which includes convincing "Democrats who are on the fence to come to his side" (Murray, 12/14).

Politico: "Most insiders agree that Democrats have until Thursday to work out their differences if they want to pass a bill by Dec. 23. It will take at least five or six days after Democrats move to end debate before they can vote on the bill." Democrats are also split on a proposal to allow cheaper drugs to be imported from countries with similar safety procedures to the United States, like Canada (Frates, 12/14).

Roll Call: "As Senate Democrats show tentative signs of coalescing around a compromise health care bill that eliminates the controversial public insurance option, some of their allies are wasting no time in trying to sink the new proposal. While lawmakers await a Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the proposed substitute, doctor and hospital groups are already trying to scuttle part of the plan that would allow people ages 55 to 64 to enroll in Medicare. ... Liberal groups, including and union-backed Health Care for America Now, have also railed against the compromise proposal because they view the public option as central to any health care reform effort. " Also, doctor and hospital groups are opposing the proposed Medicare expansion because they say the system already "shortchanges" doctors and other providers and that an expansion would further burden an overburdened system (Roth, 12/14). 

Bloomberg: "After hailing a potential breakthrough for U.S. health-care legislation, Democrats this week will learn whether the new deal passes muster with budget analysts and the senators they are courting. ... A positive appraisal from the nonpartisan CBO would go a long way to help Reid meet his Christmas deadline for Senate passage of the plan" (Jensen and Rowley, 12/14).

Meanwhile, CBS News' "60 Minutes" interviewed President Obama: "'I think it's going to pass out of the Senate before Christmas,' Mr. Obama said in the interview. 'I think that when we look back after I signed this bill, people are going to acknowledge that not only was this the most important piece of domestic legislation since at least social security, but it also tackled the biggest problem that we had in terms of our long-term fiscal well-being,' the president said" (Condon, 12/13).

Roll Call, in a separate story: "The White House until a few days ago was saying that the final bill could still be passed by the House and the Senate and get to Obama's desk before the end of the year. The president had earlier set a 'deadline' of Dec. 31 for final passage." Roll Call reports that Obama's insistence that the Senate will pass a bill by Christmas seemed "recognition that the health care debate is likely to continue into 2010" (Koffler, 12/13).

CongressDaily reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed for cloture on a health reform bill amendment offered by Sen. Mike Crapo that would send the measure back to the "Senate Finance Committee to strip all taxes on individuals who earn less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000. … The cloture vote would take place Tuesday morning, unless an agreement is reached or Democrats move to table the Crapo amendment, a Republican aide said" (Sanchez and Hunt, 12/13).

Kaiser Health News tracked the weekend headlines, including news related to the Senate's proposed Medicare buy-in and the Sunday talk shows.

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