House Democrats Reach Accord Over Health Reform Deal; Energy And Commerce Panel Continues Mark-Up
"Liberals and a small core of conservative Democrats set aside long-standing ideological differences early Friday to cut a deal that should allow the House Energy and Commerce Committee to approve a sweeping health care bill, breaking a two-week deadlock that threatened President Barack Obama's top domestic priority," Politico reports.
Seven conservatives who belong to a group of Democrats known as the Blue Dogs, had been blocking the bill in the committee. They "agreed to allow their liberal colleagues to cut billions from existing government-funded health care programs in order to restore some $50 billion to $65 billion in subsidies set aside in the bill to help middle-income families purchase coverage. In a separate side deal, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised the liberal wing of her caucus a vote on a single-payer, government run health system, according to a Democratic aide."
Politico reports that "moderates and liberals on the committee will offer a package during committee consideration that will make changes the Blue Dogs secured in a deal with Waxman earlier this week." Among its provisions is one that would reduce the cost of premiums many uninsured people will be required to pay for health coverage from 12 percent to 11 percent of a household's total annual income. "The Blue Dogs, meanwhile, preserved one of their main objectives: de-coupling the so-called public plans from Medicare, a change that gives health care providers the right to negotiate payments with the government" (O'Connor, 7/31).
In a last minute agreement, committee Democrats "included authority for the federal government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices under Medicare" the Associated Press reports. Also under the bill, "the cost of insurance... could not rise by more than 4 percent a year unless the government approved" the increase. Rep Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the panel's chairman, told the AP he hoped for a vote on the overall measure by Friday evening (Espo and Werner, 7/31).
Bloomberg: In the Senate, another version of the bill is still pending in the Finance Committee. Three Republicans and three Democrats are seeking to reach a bipartisan compromise, but that committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said yesterday that there "won't be a markup next week" (Gaouette and Donmoyer, 7/31).