CONGRESS: Democrats Have New Strategy On HMO Reform, Tobacco
House Democratic leaders announced yesterday "that they plan to use a rare parliamentary tactic to circumvent Republican leaders and force floor votes" on patients' rights, tobacco, campaign finance and education legislation, the Boston Globe reports. To bring these issues to a vote, Democrats said they will use the "discharge petition" -- a parliamentary tactic that "allows a majority of House members to force floor consideration of a measure without going through" the House Committee that governs floor action. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) said: "Moderate Republicans who are rightfully concerned about their own reelection want something on health care, education, campaign finance reform, and tobacco. They are getting tired of the right-wing extreme agenda." Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA) said, "We could win back the House on those three issues" -- patients' rights, tobacco and campaign finance (Black, 6/12).
House GOP Rx Task Force
A task force of House Republicans charged with writing health care legislation yesterday "insisted the group is back on track toward its goal of producing a bill by the end of next week." CongressDaily reports that "task force members kept to their agreement not to discuss the substance of their discussions."
CongressDaily also reports that "opposition is starting to mount toward one probable element" of the GOP group's proposal -- Commerce Committee Chair Thomas Bliley's (R-VA) move "to allow creation of so-called HealthMarts, which are insurance purchasing pools operated jointly by employers, employees, insurers and health care providers." The Health Insurance Association of America and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association sent a letter to Bliley saying the HealthMarts proposal "raises serious concerns regarding market segmentation and the ability of states to protect their residents." The letter further stated: "We urge legislators to avoid legislation that unravels the market by helping a limited group of small employers at the expense of other individuals and small groups" (Rovner, 6/11).