Lawmakers Spar Over Health Reform
As the Senate Finance Committee prepares to unveil a health overhaul proposal this week, key players have been weighing in on aspects of potential legislation.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sparred on the issue of whether to raise taxes on employer-provided health benefits during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, The Hill reports. "The idea of talking about taxing benefits at a time where people are already overwhelmed is, I think, a very bad idea," Sen. Dodd said. Sen. Grassley "said that taxes on benefits were a possibility, but added that it would take the intervention of the president, who railed against Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) favorability to taxes on benefits during the 2008 presidential campaign" (O'Brien, 6/14).
In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Vice President Joe Biden "said Sunday that the Obama administration opposed taxing the medical benefits employers provide workers to pay for health care reform, but he refused to rule it out entirely," CNN Money reports. "We do not think that is the way to go; we think that is the wrong way to finance this legislation," Biden said. But he added that Obama "would consider the measure in total before making a decision" (6/14).
Meanwhile, on "Face the Nation" Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama supports "a national rationing board, to determine what kind of treatments would be available for American citizens," Politico reports. "Typically, those in single payer countries like Canada and Britain involve delays in treatment, denial of care, those kind of things," McConnell continued. He said that Senate Republicans would oppose a government-sponsored health insurance option because "if the government is in the insurance business, there won't be any other insurers. It's inevitable because taxpayers will be backing the program" (Bresnahan, 6/14).
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," where she said a public option would increase competition and lower health-care costs, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Most Americans understand that choice and competition is what we want You can write the rules for a level playing field. The president does not want to dismantle privately owned planned. He wants to strengthen the marketplace," she said (Spiegel, 6/14).
Roll Call reports that Sen. Dodd "has indicated he would consider" a delay in marking up the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee health care proposal, but that "if we're just going to dance around each other, then we're going directly to the markup" (Langel, 6/15).
Former presidential candidate and DNC chairman Howard Dean is releasing a book called "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform," CQ Politics reports. In the book, Dean "says President Obama and congressional Democrats shouldn't compromise the public option away just for the sake of bipartisanship. Without it, he says, the private health insurance system will have no incentive to reduce costs and eliminate the gaps in patients' coverage." When Sen. Dodd "signaled a willingness last wee to consider alternatives to the public option," Dean responded that "I think Sen. Dodd is doing the best he can under the circumstances' but 'at the end of the day, bipartisanship doesn't do us any good if we end up with a crummy bill" (Nather, 6/15).