Democrats Must Clear Remaining Hurdles On Path To Health Vote
As House Democrats move towards a weekend vote, they must resolve a series of outstanding issues, The Hill reports. Blue Dog Democrats, a fiscally conservative voting bloc, said up to 30 of their members "are considering voting against the bill because of concerns that it will increase healthcare costs in its second 10 years." Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus could vote against the bill if it blocks undocumented immigrants from buying insurance on proposed exchanges. Abortion, the most divisive of the issues, has split enough Democrats from the party to block legislation, one anti-abortion Democrat, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said (Soraghan and Hooper, 11/4).
One issue comes down to the fine print beneath a plan to move people with pre-existing health problems into high-risk insurance pools when private companies turn them down, the Associated Press reports. The proposal is meant to immediately help people in that difficult situation, but in the Senate Finance Committee bill, it would require patients to be uninsured for six months before they become eligible. That's enough time for the very sick, such as cancer patients, to "go from bad to death," one cancer policy expert said. The House bill "doesn't include a waiting period" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/5).
Some moderates remain concerned about the House bill's biggest revenue-raising provision: "a 5.4 percent surtax on adjusted gross income above $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for couples filing jointly. That raises $460.5 billion," CongressDaily reports. Some House moderates convinced their leadership to raise those limits from the much lower thresholds that were initially proposed. But, other remain concerned. One lawmaker is worried that the thresholds are not indexed for inflation and would begin affecting more people over time (Cohn, 11/5).
Despite campaign claims that the middle class would face no tax hikes under President Obama's administration, "as Congress inches closer to forging a massive package of health-care reforms, it's increasingly clear how difficult it will be to keep that pledge," BusinessWeek reports. For instance, one critic "argues that Congress has purposely loaded onto the corporate sector the increased taxes needed to pay for the reforms to avoid politically unpopular individual tax hikes. But the added costs will eventually be shifted to customers" (Sasseen, 11/4).