With a new slew of complicated laws and regulations on the books, someone has to interpret them for average Americans and the business community.
Democrats, who no longer have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, are weighing the use of a budget rule called reconciliation to pass at least part of the long-debated health overhaul package with a simple majority.
The drive on Capitol Hill to create a bipartisan commission to help “bend the cost curve” of health spending is picking up momentum – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of moderate Democrats and Republicans are supporting the effort.
Democrats get new momentum from House passage of a health care bill, but face new tests in bridging differences within the party — and between the chambers — on cost, financing and coverage.
Those who want a health reform bill passed by Christmas fear that if that doesn’t happen, there could be a repeat of the brutal August town hall meetings. Others don’t think the situation is so dire and say that Democrats could deliver the bill to Obama by the spring.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have legislation they say is a less expensive alternative to the Democrats’ health overhaul bill. They plan to introduce it as an amendment in the next week.
Despite all the controversy, a new Congressional Budget Office estimate indicates that relatively few people would be helped by a public health insurance plan. Any “opt-out” provision means at least some states are likely to bar a government-backed plan within their borders.
With growing signs that health reform bills would do little to “bend the cost curve,” Sens. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., want a bipartisan commission to control future Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs.
Although negotiators are considering various forms of a public option as they try to meld health overhaul bills approved by two Senate panels, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., says it’s unlikely the Senate would approve major legislation this year that includes a pure form of the controversial government-operated insurance program.
The finances of Hillsboro Medical Center in North Dakota improved after it got a “critical access” designation. Sens. Conrad, D-N.D., Wyden, D-Ore., Pryor, D-Ark., and Brownback, R-Kan., want to make it easier for other rural hospitals to get the designation as part of health reform.
With the support of a lone Republican, Olympia Snowe, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would assure that most Americans would have access to health insurance, end discriminatory insurance industry practices and impose a tax on high-costhealth care plans. The bill will now be combined with the HELP Committee’s bill before a full Senate vote.
Democrats’ latest proposal includes some Republican-inspired provisions, though in a watered-down form.
The Senate Finance Committee could begin work on a health overhaul bill as early as next week.
President Obama signaled in his nationally televised speech last night that there is some flexibility in his commitment to a government-run insurance plan, providing an opening for Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s idea for holding the public option in reserve.
For nearly a decade, the two Senate Finance Committee leaders have found ways to bridge partisan divides to shape dozens of bills. But their partnership is being severely tested on a health care overhaul plan.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, says that mounting public concern about the federal deficit and government spending could hurt prospects for a bipartisan health care overhaul deal when Congress returns to work next month.
If Democratic leaders and the White House use “reconciliation” budget rules this fall to try to pass health overhaul legislation without Republican support, how would it work?
Congressional leaders are considering invoking rarely used budget rules that would allow a health reform bill to be passed by a simple majority. But the technique could backfire and leave key provisions of the overhaul legislation vulnerable to Republican challenge.
Although some Democratic party stalwarts still urge administration to hold out for a comprehensive health care bill, others say a defeat in Congress could be politically disastrous.
In just the last few weeks, Karen Ignagni, the health industry’s chief lobbyist, has faced Democratic accusations that insurers are “villains” and “immoral.” In an interview with KHN, Ignagni discussed her take on the Democratic political assault, her industry’s end-game strategy and her unflagging opposition to a public plan.