As Reform Stalls, Senators Scramble To Scale Back Or Cut Costs
"The high cost of securing health insurance for all Americans, the top domestic priority of President Obama, has Congressional Democrats scrambling to scale back their proposals or find ways to trim tens of billions of dollars a year from existing health programs," the New York Times reports. Early estimates for the cost of the Senate Finance Committee's reform proposal are far higher than anticipated, forcing leading senators in charge of shaping the legislation into a holding pattern as they seek lower-cost alternatives. Among the items being considered: "'an automatic mechanism' to reduce the growth of Medicare under an expedited procedure like the one used to close military bases" and a requirement that some employers contribute to the cost of Medicaid or private health insurance for low-wage workers.
Meanwhile, the Senate health committee continued marking up its own proposal, but Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said, "Obviously this is not going to go as fast as we thought" (Pear, 6/18).
According to CongressDaily, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who has been chairing the HELP committee markup proceedings in the absence of HELP Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he hoped to wrap up the quality section of the bill by this afternoon and move on to dealing with prevention and workforce issues early next week. (Hunt, 6/19).
Republicans offered 400 amendments during markup this week, prompting Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to say, "they are designed for no other reason than to slow the process to a halt," the Hill reports.
However, "Seven senators have formed a bipartisan group to find consensus on health-care reform legislation, a sign of fresh momentum after a week of setbacks," the Washington Post reports. "There's no doubt in my mind we're going to get a bipartisan bill," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the Finance chairman and a member of the group, said. The group called the "Coalition of the Willing" by members - also includes Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and other key Republicans.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who introduced the compromise concept of creating nonprofit co-operatives instead of creating a government-run insurance plan, also joined the 'Coalition of the Willing,' Dow Jones Newswires reports. That plan appeared in materials describing Finance's draft version of their bill, however, in its current form, "[t]he direct government control of the plan could stir complaints from Republicans that the co-op is little different from a public health insurance option, which they have fiercely denounced" (Yoest, 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.