KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Finance Committee Under Pressure To Produce Health Bill

President Obama told Sen. Max Baucus that he wants a Senate Finance Committee health overhaul bill by the end of the week, The Associated Press reports. "These officials said Obama made his wishes known directly to Baucus, D-Mont., at a White House meeting Monday attended by administration officials and senior Democratic lawmakers."

"Scott Mulhauser, a spokesman for Baucus, said the senior Democrat has stressed that his committee will be ready when it has completed a proposal 'that can ensure quality, affordable care for every American, lower costs - and pass the Senate.'"

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is pushing to complete its bill Tuesday to create a government-plan with an employer mandate on providing coverage for employees, though that plan will likely garner little Republican support. Finance Committee senators, in the meantime, are still trying to pay for the bill and resolve the Democratic demand for the government to sell insurance in competition with private business (Espo and Werner, 7/14).

Dow Jones Newswires: "The U.S. Senate is not likely to embrace a surtax on wealthy households to fund an overhaul of the health-care system as the House of Representatives is set to propose, senators said Monday. 'I don't think that's the direction that's being taken,' Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said after a Senate vote Monday. 'In the search for alternative means of funding, those things that are more controversial are losing altitude.' Senate Finance Committee members are debating how to raise about $300 billion over 10 years to help pay for a $1 trillion health-care re-write." Dow Jones continues, quoting Baucus: "'The House is going to do what it thinks is best, and we in the Senate are going to enact what we think is best.' He added that proposals for a surtax have not been ruled out of the discussion in the Senate" (Vaughan and Yoest, 7/13).

CNN: "Republicans support a plan that would give Americans cash -- initial figures suggest $5,000-$7,000 a year -- to buy their own private health insurance instead of creating a government-funded public option favored by Obama" (Barrett, 7/13).

Hopes for a bipartisan deal remain alive, however, The Wall Street Journal reports: "In closed-door negotiations, a bipartisan group that includes (Sen. Charles) Grassley (R-Iowa) is pondering proposed levies on pharmaceutical companies and insurers, as well as an income surtax on wealthy individuals, which is part of a House Democratic bill set to be unveiled this week. Mr. Grassley isn't fond of the idea. 'When is enough enough?' he asks in an interview. … The White House and top Democrats think a bipartisan bill would give the public added confidence in the legislation, which partly explains Mr. Grassley's clout. 'It's more durable...more lasting,' Mr. Baucus says of legislation that attracts bipartisan support. As a practical matter, a bill with GOP backing would give Democrats leverage to overcome certain delaying tactics" (Hitt, 7/14).

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