Obama Backs New Health Care Deal
ABC News: "A Senate deal worked out behind closed doors that would nix the "public option" got the green light from President Obama and could gain broad support in the health care debate, although details remain murky." President Barack Obama "threw his weight behind the Senate health care deal, hailing the 'critical progress' lawmakers made on a 'creative new framework that I believe will help pave the way for final passage and a historic achievement on behalf of the American people. I support this effort,' the president said today."
"Instead of a new government-run insurance program supported by liberal Democrats, the new Senate proposal would expand Medicare and allow people ages 55 to 64 to buy into the program, starting in 2011. It would also give people the option to purchase private insurance from a national non-profit insurance program that would be overseen by the Office of Personnel Management, which supervises the health plan that's offered to federal employees and members of Congress. There were also rumblings that a public option, supported by liberal Democrats, would kick in if the national plan failed" (Wolf and Khan, 12/9).
Meanwhile, "Senate Democrats plan to hold a special caucus on health care reform at 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss a tentative deal on how to change the bill's public insurance option," Roll Call reports. "A group of 10 Democrats - five centrists and five liberals - agreed Tuesday night to send a set of proposals to the Congressional Budget Office for an official score, but the details have yet to be presented to all 60 Members of the Democratic Conference. However, it's unclear how much information Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the 10 members of the group can share with their colleagues because the CBO has asked Reid to keep mum on the details if he wants them to provide him with a confidential score" (Pierce, 12/9).
See related stories about the announcement of the agreement last night at Kaiser Health News.
CQPolitics reports that Senate debate on the health care bill has slowed over an amendment about importing prescription drugs. "The amendment offered by Byron L. Dorgan , D-N.D., and backed by John McCain, R-Ariz., would allow prescription drugs to enter the country for registered importers and individuals for personal use. ... While many Democratic senators support importing drugs, Dorgan's amendment would effectively scrap an informal agreement the White House made with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA), the brand-name drugmaker trade group. The agreement limited cuts in drug spending in the bill to ensure support from PhRMA, which has run an advertising campaign to support completion of the bill. Dorgan cited a report from the Congressional Budget Office saying drug imports would result in savings of $19.4 billion over ten years by prodding manufacturers to lower domestic prices to compete with imported drugs" (12/9).
Reuters reports that the negotiators' decision to "replace a government-run public insurance option with a scaled-back non-profit approach, possibly resolving the bill's biggest stumbling block. ... Shares of U.S. health insurers initially rose on Wednesday on news the Senate might jettison a government-run insurance plan viewed as damaging to the industry and as a possible first step to a government takeover of the sector" (Whitesides, 12/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.