KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Capitol Hill Personalities Play A Key Role In How Health Bills Are Taking Shape

A number of news organizations are detailing the conflicts and positions of certain lawmakers in the ongoing health overhaul effort.

Senators' egos are part of the mix, Roll Call reports: "Newly minted Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is poised to assert himself in the health care debate and work aggressively to protect liberal reform goals, setting up a possible Senate showdown with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and leading moderate Democrats. Harkin and Baucus have a history of collaborating on legislation, particularly on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, where they both sit. But the duo has also clashed since Baucus often pushes a centrist agenda while Harkin advocates liberal priorities"(Drucker, 10/1). 

Democrats are watching Republican Olympia Snowe, hoping to garner her vote, U.S. News & World Report reports. "At times, Snowe has praised Baucus for his bipartisan effort, applauded his proposal to block insurers from discriminating against people because of gender or health status, and spoken passionately of her worries if reform does not pass. … But she also has had some harsh words for them. She's concerned that the bill, by imposing a penalty on families if they fail to buy health insurance, would unduly burden those with lower incomes" (Garber, 9/30).

Sen. John Kerry, a Finance Committee member, is asserting his power now that he's the senior senator from Massachusetts after the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who is "involved in just about every policy initiative," The Washington Post reports. Kerry "is spending grueling hours in the Finance Committee to mark up a health-care reform bill," according to the Post, which has a video interview with him. (10/1).

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are working separately, Roll Call reports in a second story: "Both Reid and Pelosi appear to be banking on President Barack Obama to bring them back together as they hunker down to secure even bare majorities in their respective chambers for health care reform. … Though Reid and Pelosi talk frequently during the week and meet at least once a week, the disconnect between them has been evident recently in the public comments each has made about what they would accept from the other chamber, as well as in their maneuvering behind the scenes" (Pierce and Newmyer, 10/1). 

NBC News profiled doctor and Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wisc., who is pushing the public option after practicing medicine for 33 years. "He stressed three 'critical, essential elements' that he believes need to be in the legislation passed by Congress. One, he suggests there needs to be 'no discrimination against anyone due to a pre-existing condition.' Two, that there is 'complete transparency' by insurance companies, particularly regarding prices. And, three, that a 'standard health-benefit plan' is established for all citizens" (Price, 9/30).

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