Kennedy Plan Skips Contentious Issues, Still Angers GOP
The first detailed health reform proposal "got off to a rocky start Tuesday," as "even moderate Republicans" attacked a draft bill by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Democrats from his Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the Los Angeles Times reports. Many of the proposals goals are "broadly shared by lawmakers of both parties," but GOP legislators complained they were excluded from the drafting process and that the Democrats are rushing reform.
The plan "would require all Americans to get medical insurance, establish complex new insurance exchanges to facilitate near-universal coverage, and dramatically step up government oversight of the insurance industry." The plan skips over for now the two issues Republicans have most vocally opposed, a government-run insurance option and a mandate for businesses to insure employees. Nevertheless, the "Republican response was sharply negative" (Levey, 6/10).
An earlier version of the bill, circulated in Washington last week, did include language describing those contentious proposals, Dow Jones Newswires reports.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said in a statement, that Republicans have "been meeting with Democrats for months to discuss health-care reform, but from what I've seen in this proposal, it doesn't look like they listened at all."
The measure's "lack of details on a public plan" come as more uncertainty is emerging regarding how such a plan would take shape. "Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is circulating a proposal to create non-governmental state and regional cooperatives that would provide an alternative to private insurance plans. Conrad's proposal has attracted interest from Enzi and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Finance panel, presumably because it would need to meet the same requirements for financial reserves as private plans and wouldn't be an arm of federal or state governments" (Yoest, 6/9).
Opposition to a public plan continues. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, told reporters, "The sooner we can get the government plan off the table, the better, in terms of getting an actual result for the American people," Bloomberg reports. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Kennedy's who is managing the HELP committee bill as Kennedy battles brain cancer, told Bloomberg that on June 16 the panel will begin two weeks of work on the bill. Meanwhile, House Democrats plan to introduce next week a similar measure that also will include the public option and mandates for both individuals and businesses (Litvan, 6/9).