House Energy And Commerce Committee Approves Massive Health Overhaul
Politico: "Democrats moved one step closer to their long-sought goal of providing health care to millions of uninsured Americans on Friday after their bill cleared a critical House committee. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the legislation, 31-28, on Friday after liberals and conservatives on the panel broke a two-week deadlock that threatened President Barack Obama's top domestic priority and reached a loose accord that allowed Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to move the bill out of his committee. Five Democrats voted against the bill, and no Republicans supported it (O'Connor, 7/31).
The Hill: "In an unusual move before the final vote, Waxman halted the markup to have a closed-door meeting with Democrats on his panel presumably to make sure he had the votes to pass the bill ... Democrats who voted no were Reps. Rick Boucher (Va.), Bart Stupak (Mich.), Jim Matheson (Utah), John Barrow (Ga.) and Charles Melancon (La.)" (Shalleck-Klein, 7/31).
The Associated Press: "As part of a last-minute series of changes, the committee agreed to cap increases in the cost of insurance sold under the bill, and also to give the federal government authority to negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices under Medicare. The new provisions were part of an intensive effort Democrats made in recent days to satisfy the conflicting demands of liberals and conservatives on the panel, unity necessary to overcome a solid wall of Republican opposition. 'We have agreed we need to pull together,' said Rep. Henry Waxman, the committee chairman who presided over hours of private negotiations and public committee meetings. " (Espo and Werner, 7/31).
The Washington Post: "The House legislation's centerpiece is a government-financed alternative to compete against private insurance in an effort to drive down health-care costs. Special interests on both sides of the issue expect to spend millions of dollars in the roughly 50 to 60 congressional districts that are considered swing votes, in an effort to define the 'public option' proposal on their terms" (Kane and Bacon, 7/31).
New York Times: "Congress still has plenty of work to do in September to blend competing, sometimes contradictory health measures, but lawmakers have found a good deal of common ground on proposals that would profoundly change the health system."
"Lawmakers of both parties agree on the need to rein in private insurance companies by banning underwriting practices that have prevented millions of Americans from obtaining affordable insurance. Insurers would, for example, have to accept all applicants and could not charge higher premiums because of a person's medical history or current illness."
"All insurers would have to offer a minimum package of benefits, to be defined by the federal government, and nearly all Americans would be required to have insurance" (Pear and Herszenhorn, 7/31).
CongressDaily: "Committee members overwhelmingly approved an amendment that would create a regulatory pathway for the approval of generic biologic drugs ... the amendment is similar to language included in the Senate HELP Committee bill and allows for a 12-year period of exclusivity for brand names before generics are allowed."
"Committee members also defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that would have codified the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations measure that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion. Named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the appropriations amendment must be enacted every year, while Stupak's change would have been permanent. 'We must get the Hyde Amendment back in this bill here and now or we'll be looking at massive public subsidies for abortion,' Stupak said" (Hunt, 7/31).
Los Angeles Times: "Before the vote, committee members acknowledged the momentous nature of their action. 'We have a historic opportunity to transform our healthcare system,' said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.). Now Democrats are preparing to fan out around the country during their August recess and help President Obama convince the nation that the plan would not only extend healthcare to the 47 million who now lack insurance, but also provide help to millions more who already are covered" (Hook, 7/31).