Senators Focus On Key Policy IssuesThe Wall Street Journal reports that the six Senate Finance Committee negotiators aren't in agreement about subsidies for low-income people to buy insurance.
"Republicans are pressing to reduce the size of tax credits for families with incomes that are below three times the poverty rate. They would also like to trim back insurance coverage mandates in hopes of lowering premiums that would have to be subsidized. Both sides say the core of a bill has already come together that would represent dramatic changes, both for those with health insurance and the uninsured. That core bill would impose new regulations on insurance companies, preventing them from withholding coverage for applicants with pre-existing conditions or dropping coverage when a customer gets sick. It would also cap out-of-pocket expenses and end lifetime coverage caps. And insurers would have to narrow price differences for comparable policies. In exchange, the insurers would get a huge new customer base: most of the 46 million uninsured, who would be mandated to purchase insurance through a new, federally created exchange" (Weisman and Bendavid, 8/24).
In the meantime, the negotiators' leader, Sen. Max Baucus faces pressure in his home state of Montana among Democrats, Politico reports. "A new poll aimed at pressuring Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) shows 55 percent of Montana Democrats disapprove of their state's longtime senator's actions on health care, while just 34 percent approve. Baucus is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the only congressional panel that has not yet moved health care legislation. A moderate Democrat, Baucus is viewed warily by liberals who fear he'll work to pass legislation without a public option." (Martin, 8/21).
Roll Call on Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi's hopes for bipartisan talks: "(T)he Finance Committee negotiator and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel indicated his support for health care reform is predicated partly on its ability to garner the support of 75 to 80 Senators. That condition is shared by fellow Finance negotiator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel's ranking member" (Drucker, 8/22).
'Let Freedom Ring,' a conservative group, is seeking signatures from every lawmaker in Washington that pledges they won't vote for a health care bill before they have personally read it and before it has be available to the public for 72 hours before a vote is held, The Hill reports. "So far, only 114 senators and House members all Republican have signed what the group is calling the Responsible Healthcare Reform pledge, and Let Freedom Ring plans to intensify its campaign throughout the recess and when Congress returns after Labor Day" (Crabtree, 8/23).
Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing a challenge on health legislation, The Associated Press reports: "Selling the plan has proven to be a tough balancing act, and a test of Pelosi's leadership. How she steers the process could help define her legacy. Pelosi has had to maneuver gingerly through the competing interests of Democratic liberals, moderates and conservatives. Angry opposition in some town hall meetings have knocked some Democrats off stride" (Barbassa, 8/24). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.