KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Finance Committee To Vote Today On Health Care Reform Overhaul

After months of negotiation, haggling, posturing and talking, the Senate Finance Committee votes today on a health care reform bill.

The Washington Post reports that the Finance Committee, where Democrats hold a 13-10 edge, will likely report the $829 billion bill out to the full Senate despite misgivings from Republicans and some Democrats. "With few, if any, Republicans expected to support the bill sponsored by Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Democrats have already begun their own internal negotiations aimed at reconciling the various measures passed by House and Senate committees." Democrats disagree on how to pay for the overhaul, the inclusion of a government-run public option and the tax treatment in the measures (Murray and Montgomery, 10/13).

The Associated Press reports that "much work would lie ahead before a bill could arrive on Obama's desk, but action by the Finance Committee would mark a significant advance, capping numerous delays as Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., held marathon negotiating sessions - ultimately unsuccessful - aimed at producing a bipartisan bill." The other committees, three in the House and one other in the Senate voted their bills out of committee before the August recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is already merging the other Senate bill - from the more liberal Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee - with the Finance Committee bill to ready it for debate on the Senate floor (Werner, 10/13).

USA Today reports on other "sticking points" -- the mandates that people have health insurance, penalties for those who don't and the higher cost of premiums on older Americans. "Complicating the task: An 11th-hour attack by the health insurance industry" which issued a report on Monday saying the Finance Committee's bill will increase the cost of family coverage (see KHN's summary of stories.)  Reid "will need all 60 members of his caucus to prevent a GOP filibuster from blocking the health care legislation on the Senate floor" (Kiely and Fritze, 10/13). 

Reuters: "The Finance Committee vote will be closely watched to see if Senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate from Maine, becomes the first Republican in Congress to back a health reform bill and if any of Obama's fellow Democrats defect on the issue. ... Democratic defections would create a major threat to passage in the Senate, where the party controls only 60 seats and has no margin of error" (Whitesides, 10/13).

CongressDaily reports on some Democrats to watch during the vote: Senate Finance Health Subcommittee Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. "Rockefeller is a champion of the public option and is unhappy with the co-op alternative in Baucus' proposal. Lincoln is facing a potentially tough re-election race in a conservative state, and Wyden wants more choices" (Edney and Hunt, 10/13).

McClatchy Newspapers: "Republicans have offered several alternatives to Democrats' health care plans. GOP proposals usually include strengthening employer-provided insurance and offering tax benefits for those who buy coverage on their own. Democratic-controlled committees have routinely rejected Republican plans" (Lightman, 10/12).

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