House Democrats Reach Deal That Clears Path for Health Reform Bill
Early this morning, liberal members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee reached a deal with members of the Blue Dog Coalition on subsidies to help middle-income U.S. families purchase health coverage, which "should clear the way" for the committee to pass the legislation on Friday, Politico reports (O'Connor, Politico, 7/31).
On Wednesday, committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) struck a deal with the Blue Dogs that removed the subsidies from the chamber's reform bill (HR 3200) (Werner, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/31).
The deal would restore between $50 billion and $65 billion in subsidies to help such families purchase coverage. Blue Dogs agreed to find other cuts to fund the subsidies.
According to Politico, the Blue Dogs preserved one of their main objectives to prevent Medicare from setting payment rates for a public plan option. With the deal in hand, Waxman predicted that his committee would conclude talks on the bill by 2 p.m. ET on Friday (Politico, 7/31).
Committee Makes Progress in Markup on Thursday
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday continued markup on the House reform bill, defeating a Republican effort to eliminate the government-run public plan option and approving an amendment that would establish a new abortion policy, the New York Times reports (Herszenhorn/Pear, New York Times, 7/31).
During the markup, Waxman warned lawmakers against proposing amendments that would increase the total cost of the legislation and agreed to a suggestion from a Republican member to limit the time allotted for debate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed confidence that the bill would pass the committee and that the full House would approve it after the August recess (Alonso-Zaldivar/Werner, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/30).
The panel -- the third and final needed to approve the legislation before it can go to the House floor -- voted 35-24 to uphold the public plan option, striking down a GOP amendment that would have eliminated the public option from the bill.
The committee also voted 30-28 on an amendment to allow health plans to cover or not cover abortion as they see fit. The provision stipulates that in every part of the country, the government must guarantee the existence of at least one plan that covers abortion and at least one that does not.
However, the amendment also states that abortion could not be included in the "essential benefits package" to be defined by the government. In addition, the provision would mandate that insurers cannot use government subsidies to pay for abortions (New York Times, 7/31).
Earlier in the day, conservative Democrats joined with Republicans to approve an antiabortion amendment. However, the provision was later defeated, 29-30, after Waxman used a procedural maneuver to bring it up for a second vote (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/31).
The panel also voted 28-29 to defeat a GOP amendment that would have imposed new identity proof requirements on Medicaid patients seeking care (CQ Politics, 7/30). The measure was intended to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving Medicaid benefits, according to the AP/Inquirer (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/30).
Blue Dog Deal Under Fire
On Thursday, 57 Democrats signed a letter to Pelosi warning that they would vote against any legislation that maintains proposals from Waxman's deal with the Blue Dogs (Levey/Oliphant, Los Angeles Times, 7/31).
The letter states, "This agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill but a large step backward." It continues, "Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public plan option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates -- not negotiated rates -- is unacceptable" (Werner, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/31).
It also states that the agreement "will result in the public, both as insurance purchasers and taxpayers, paying even higher rates to insurance companies."
The signers of the letter primarily are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Asian-Pacific Islander Caucus (Soraghan, The Hill, 7/30).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" reported on House efforts to pass its reform bill. The segment included an interview with Pelosi, who said efforts to compromise with Blue Dogs and other conservative lawmakers are not too burdensome (Woodruff, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 7/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.