Finance Committee Seeks To Trim Cost Of Bill
"A draft proposal in the Senate to overhaul the nation's health-care system would require most people to buy health insurance, authorize an expansion of Medicaid coverage and create consumer-owned cooperative plans instead of the government coverage that President Obama is seeking," the Washington Post reports. The proposal, a preliminary version of legislation being shaped by the Senate Finance Committee, also contained "an array of coverage provisions that were drastically scaled back from earlier versions, as lawmakers seek to shrink the bill's overall cost."
Absent from the blueprint was was a "public option," which "marks perhaps the most significant omission." Obama and many Democrats had sought this option as a means to "expand coverage and reduce costs" but "as many as 10 Senate Democrats have protested the idea as unfair to private insurers. In its place, the draft circulated yesterday outlines a co-op approach modeled after rural electricity and telecom providers, subject to government oversight and funded with federal seed money" (Montgomery and Murray, 6/19).
Other coverage of the Finance Committee:
Wall Street Journal: "A key Senate committee, pressed to find ways to pay for a health-care expansion, is considering cuts in Medicare that would kick in automatically if other efforts to trim spending in the program fail." Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the Finance chairman, suggested that Congress set a goal for lowering costs, such as by 1.5 percent a year, allowing the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to implement policy changes that would help achieve that goal after their policies are approved by a yes-no vote in Congress (Meckler and Hitt, 6/19).
Bloomberg: "U.S. senators seeking to lower the price tag of a health-care overhaul below a $1.6 trillion estimate are cutting back proposed subsidies to help low-income Americans buy insurance." Senators had earlier proposed subsidies to buy insurance for people making 400 percent of the poverty line or less. The new plan would only help individuals and families make 300 percent of the poverty line, or less (Litvan and Ronmoyer, 6/19).
CongressDaily: The committee is also "weighing an alternative to an employer mandate to provide health insurance that would instead require a contribution on businesses' part if their employees participate in either Medicaid or an [health insurance] exchange." Under the alternative plan, "an employer would not have to provide healthcare coverage for their employees but would be forced to contribute the cost of tax credits for eligible workers in an exchange" (Edney, 6/19).
A second CongressDaily story about progress in the HELP Committee notes that "still missing are the most controversial pieces of the bill: an outline for a public plan, a possible employer mandate and language dealing with generic biologic drugs. [Sen. Christopher] Dodd [D-Conn.] said he expected to release those details 'probably in the next couple of days.' He had previously said Republicans would receive the language by today so they could submit amendments by Monday" (Hunt, 6/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.