Democratic Leaders Outline Health Care Agenda
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday in a "pre-buttal" to the State of the Union address on Jan. 31 "offered blanket opposition" to health savings accounts and association health plans, CongressDaily reports.
At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Pelosi said, "Any health care initiative should be measured by whether it increases access to health care, slows the growth of health care costs and does not increase the deficit." She added, "By all three of these measures, the president's proposals fail" (Wodele/Davis, CongressDaily, 1/26).
According to Democrats, an expansion of HSAs would increase health care costs for consumers through a reduction in the size of the health insurance pool, which spreads risk (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/27).
Pelosi outlined a "Democratic innovation agenda" that includes help for small businesses that provide health insurance to employees.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate minority whip, said that the proposal would "give employees of small businesses the same kind of health care that members of Congress enjoy today for much less than what these businesses now pay."
In addition, Pelosi said that Democrats support a revision to the new Medicare prescription drug benefit to allow the federal government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications.
Durbin said, "It's called Medicare Part D, and apparently the D stands for 'disaster'" (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 1/27).
In related news, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Thursday at a pharmacy in New York state said she wanted to address health care reform and "excoriated the Bush administration for failing to address it," the AP/Long Island Newsday reports.
Clinton said, "I don't think we're going to be doing our moral duty to each other if we don't figure out how we're going to provide quality affordable health care to everyone." She added, "I think people are starting to say this is not workable, we've got to fix how we fund health care, and let's get back to where the most important relationships are those between the patient and his or her doctor."
However, Republican Party strategist Nelson Warfield said that, "if Washington can't get this prescription drug program right, voters aren't going to embrace Hillary Clinton's plans to have the government take over the rest of American medicine" (Humbert, AP/Long Island Newsday, 1/26).
Meanwhile, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) on Thursday discussed the need for health care reform at a health care conference sponsored by Families USA, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Dingell said, "The safety net is becoming threadbare. It has large holes." He also said that the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation bill "is the hardest and harshest on those who are sickest, adding, "The health consequences will be severe."
Dingell said that on Monday he sent a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to criticize the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Barrett, CQ HealthBeat, 1/26).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.