KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Dems Eye August Timeline, Search For Savings

Despite some roadblocks, Senate Democrats are trying to hold true to their pledge to pass health care reform legislation by the August recess, Roll Call reports.

"Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) declined Monday evening to predict when his committee would begin marking up its health care reform bill, although he appeared to virtually guarantee legislation would hit the floor before the August recess. … Baucus remains optimistic that a bipartisan deal is achievable, saying Senators 'want to get to yes'… Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled on Tuesday to continue the markup of its health care reform bill. The process in the Senate calls for the Finance and HELP bills to be merged into one vehicle for floor consideration" (Drucker, 7/6).

A popular President Obama could help fill in the gaps Democrats leave behind, Roll Call reports in a separate story: "Republicans agreed that a hard sell from Obama would be difficult to compete with during August, but cautioned that Democrats still have to actually come up with something that is salable" (Pierce, 7/7).

The GOP is focusing on malpractice reform, CongressNow/Roll Call reports. "Republicans are determined to have a say and are seizing opportunities to score political points - if not shape policy - whenever possible. The issue of medical malpractice is one area where they are hoping to shape the debate by arguing that one way to reduce the cost of health care is to rein in lawsuits against medical providers" (Langel, 7/6).

Democrats in both chambers have their own ideas on how to finance a health overhual, and are trying to drive down the $1 trillion price tag, according to The Hill. "House Democrats are expected to offer their answers by the end of this week. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), whose panel has responsibility over the tax increases and many of the spending cuts, will address a House Democratic Caucus meeting Friday. House Democrats are considering numerous tax hikes ranging from a national 'value-add tax' on consumer goods, higher income taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year, an increase in the Medicare payroll tax and new taxes on sugary soft drinks and alcohol. Any broad-based tax on consumer goods would apply to people below Obama's $250,000 threshold." Roll Call continues: "The Senate Finance Committee is also thought to be close to unveiling its bill. Chairman Baucus is likely to include new taxes on some workers' health insurance benefits. This proposal not only angers unions but could affect people earning less than $250,000 a year, though it would raise a substantial amount of revenue" (Young 7/6). 

Meanwhile, Time examines an Illinois payment model called Prometheus that "has already caught the eye of the White House." Prometheus could change how doctors are paid: "Prometheus, funded by a $6 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, calculates compensation for hospitals and doctors based not on the specific treatments a patient receives but on the care a patient should receive 'per episode'" (Pickert, 7/6).

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