Lawmakers, Though Still Elbowing, Agree On Some Health Care Reforms
Lost in the debate over key issues is the fact that lawmakers working on health care reform agree on major parts of reform, The Los Angeles Times reports.
"The consensus proposals include such popular ideas as barring insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting injuries and illnesses, cutting insurance coverage off when a policyholder gets sick and imposing a lifetime cap on benefits." Lawmakers from both parties are beginning to view these "areas of agreement as a possible fallback if Obama's more ambitious approach collapses." Insurance companies are sure to fight such proposals, however, especially if they are not part of a larger overhaul, not to mention the still-ripe acrimony between Democrats and Republicans (Hook, 8/28).
In the meantime, The Wall Street Journal reports that senior Democratic House members say "an agreement struck with centrist Blue Dog Democrats in late July on a public health insurance option might be altered before a health-care bill reaches the House floor. Under the Blue Dog deal which was included in legislation that passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Secretary of Health would negotiate payment rates to doctors and hospitals under the new public plan. But that provision drew sharp criticism from more liberal House Democrats, who want those payment rates to be pegged to the Medicare program. They argue that negotiated rates would give insurance companies undue influence, and wouldn't lower costs enough" (Vaughan, 8/27).
But a key member of the Finance Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tells Kaiser Health News that he's not sure a bipartisan deal is possible in September, "citing mounting public concern about excessive government spending and soaring federal deficits."
"Asked whether he thought the six Democratic and Republican negotiators on the committee would be able to cut a deal when Congress returns from its summer recess next month, Grassley replied: 'If you asked me that on Aug. 6, I would have said yes, I think so, September. But you're asking me on Aug. 27 and you've got the impact of democracy in America. Everybody's showing up at town meetings'" (Pianin and Carey, 8/28).
Grassley told Bloomberg News that the growing federal deficit "puts a stake in the heart" of the $1 trillion reform measure (Litvan, 8/28).
In the House, some are calling for the current proposals to be thrown away and started from scratch, Roll Call reports. "Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) told members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here Thursday afternoon that Republicans and Democrats should throw out the proposed Democratic and Republican health care bills and start over" (Palmer, 8/27).
But, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked for $100,000 to fight what she termed GOP "smears" on existing reform proposals, Politico reports (Isenstadt, 8/27). Meanwhile, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who chairs the health subcommittee on the House Ways and Means Committee said Thursday that fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats "just want to cause trouble" with their rabble-rousing, The Associated Press reports (Werner, 8/27).
Republicans are making cost controls a high priority in the debate, The Memphis Daily News reports. "The senators (Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Roger Wicker of Mississippi) in an interview before (a Memphis hospital) meeting said health care reform needs incentives to control costs, such as addressing the nation's obesity epidemic. Other incentives they cited include tort reform to cut the cost of doctors practicing defensive medicine and measures to eliminate fraud. Coburn is an author of a bill that Wicker said he supports" (Wilemon, 8/28).