Battles Over Insurance Reform Afflict House Dems
"House liberals are offended that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) mocked their threats to oppose a Democratic healthcare bill, saying leaders are underestimating their frustration over a deal cut with centrist Blue Dogs," The Hill reports. "Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, on Monday expressed outrage at the comments and said her group is being 'laughed at.' Woolsey is the author of a letter signed by 60 fellow House liberals vowing to vote against a deal cut with the Blue Dogs ... Woolsey said the signers of the letter plan to 'remind leadership' of the group's support for a 'robust public option.' 'Robust' to liberals generally means similar to Medicare. Liberals are irritated leaders granted Blue Dogs' concessions that prevent the public option from using Medicare rates for reimbursement. They believe that will make care too expensive for many people" (Soraghan and Allen, 8/3).
The tough talk and hard-line stances that had convinced insurers they need to work with Democrats to forge reform have now forced insurers to turn their sights on that reform, The Washington Post reports: "The thinking was that the industry could live with some tougher regulations in exchange for the new customers that would be provided by an effort to broaden coverage -- as long as reform stopped short of a public insurance option, which the industry is dead-set against."
"But last week, the landscape shifted. Worried about whether the industry's message was getting through, President Obama began referring to 'health insurance reform' instead of 'health care reform' on the theory that voters might respond more positively to proposals targeting the unpopular industry than they had to more abstract talk about making the health care system more cost-efficient" (MacGillis, 8/3).
Meanwhile, The Chicago Sun-Times reports, "U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) promoted what he called a 'centrist' approach to health care reform he said could cut health care costs in half. As proof he offered the difference between New Jersey, where health insurance costs $5,326 per patient, and California, where insurance costs $2,565 per patient. "Kirk attributes the difference in large part to the limits California has placed on the amount of money juries can award victims of doctors' mistakes. Lawyers say California's lower rates come from state's strict regulation of insurance companies. Kirk backs both 'lawsuit reform' and 'insurance reform' as part of a three-pronged effort to reform health care funding. One of the main points of the bill he and 34 other members of the 'Tuesday group' of moderate Republicans are pushing is: 'Congress should make no law that stops the implementation of a decision that you have made with your own doctor,' Kirk said" (Pallasch, 8/3).
House Democrats are now allowing Republicans to send a mailing out to constituents critical of the Democrats' reform package, Roll Call reports. Democrats had for two weeks stopped the mailing over complaints about inaccuracy. "The mailing was approved Friday night after a meeting between Franking Commission Chairwoman Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the Franking Commission, according to a GOP aide."
"The dispute centered on a chart created by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee to illustrate the organization of the Democratic health care plan. The chart illustrates the Democratic plan as a daunting tangle of agencies and bureaucratic procedures" (Kucinich, 8/3).