Senate Health Committee Begins Amending Reform Bill
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee began amending their version of sweeping health overhaul legislation Thursday, days after a Congressional Budget Office report found the bill would cost $1 trillion over ten years, leaving 37 million people uninsured and Senate Republicans skeptical, the Associated Press reports. "First up were amendments to improve quality and efficiency. But the debate quickly shifted to the overall cost of enacting President Barack Obama's top domestic priority of reshaping the nation's health care system to bring down costs and extend insurance to 50 million Americans who lack it."
Provisions for creating a public plan and a mandate for employers to insurer their employees were not yet written as the committee began reviewing the 600-page bill and 388 amendments. The AP reports: "'you could end up with a bill that's easily headed to a $2 trillion price tag,' complained Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., as he offered an amendment that would require proof that various quality measures such as training and identifying best practices would actually save money." Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., fired back that he was throwing "sand in the gears."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced an amendment seeking to restrict comparative effectiveness research, a strategy Republicans say amounts to rationing health care. "It, too, was rejected on a 13-10 party-line vote," the AP reports.
Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee retreated from a deadline this week to make public details of its own proposal after unofficial reports suggested the Finance bill could cost $1.6 trillion. The committee, which hopes to reduce the bill's cost to less than $1 trillion, "announced that votes would wait, possibly until after July 4."
"In the House joint draft legislation was expected as early as Friday from the three committees with health care jurisdiction - Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor - with hearings to begin next week" (Werner, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.