House Majority Leader To Coordinate Federal Health Reform Efforts
On Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that he will coordinate the efforts of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee in drafting a comprehensive health reform bill, The Hill reports.
According to The Hill, Hoyer's actions indicate that House Democrats have "internalized one of the lessons learned" during the health overhaul effort under the administration of former President Clinton, "when committee and subcommittee chairman squabbled over jurisdiction."
Hoyer said, "I intend to spend a lot of time working with the various committees who have already made a determination they're going to work together" adding that the role "is to coordinate rather than impose my view" (Young, The Hill, 3/26). Hoyer said, "I think you are going to find mandates [requiring U.S. residents to buy health insurance] will be part of the plan." He added that "a public option clearly is going to be necessary" (Smith, Reuters/Boston Globe, 3/26).
Hoyer said, "We are hopeful that health care is done in the House prior to the August break," adding that it is "not a deadline, but it's a target" (O'Connor, Politico, 3/26). He noted that budget reconciliation is a "fallback position," and not the "preferred option," which is building bipartisan support (Dennis, Roll Call, 3/26).
- Los Angeles Times : The announcement this week that most health insurers would halt basing premiums on a patient's medical history if all U.S. residents were required to retain coverage "removes one of the hurdles facing lawmakers as they struggle to overhaul the system" because health insurers were "[o]nce the main opponents of sweeping reforms," a Times editorial states. "The mandate sought by the insurers has its own set of problems," which indicate that policymakers "still have a long way to go in crafting a health care plan that can attract broad support," the editorial continues. The editorial concludes that "the industry's concessions have at least advanced the debate" (Los Angeles Times, 3/27).
- Wall Street Journal : The White House and Congress are now seeking to "inflict on the entire country" a plan similar to one put in place three years ago by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a Journal editorial states. The Journal continues that current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and other Democrats are "starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls," whose "inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods." The editorial continues, "Obama and Congressional Democrats are about to try their own Bay State bait and switch: First create vast new entitlements that can never be repealed, then later take the less popular step of rationing care when it's their last hope to save the federal fisc." The Journal concludes, "The real lesson of Massachusetts is that reform proponents won't tell Americans the truth about what 'universal' coverage really means: Runaway costs followed by price controls and bureaucratic rationing" (Wall Street Journal, 3/27).
- Stuart Butler, Washington Times: "Rather than stack the deck with a public plan in a new health system, Congress could learn from the basic" Federal Employee Health Benefits plan, "with its selected private plans acting as safe-harbor options," Butler, vice president for domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation, writes in a Times opinion piece. "Today there is a refreshing desire to find common ground in the health care debate" but "the public plan proposal is fatally divisive" and "threatens to explode any potential right-left coalition because it would push the country decisively toward a government-run system," Butler continues. He concludes, "By looking first at its own health system, Congress can find a better way" (Butler, Washington Times, 3/26).
- David Grande, Philadelphia Inquirer: "[W]e shouldn't let the insurance companies' fears" -- that a public plan might be cheaper and more effective than their own -- "get in the way of health reform," Grande, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, writes in an Inquirer opinion piece. He continues that "everyone knows" the U.S. health care system is "broken," adding that "competition and choice, including an affordable public insurance option, will go a long way toward fixing it." Grande concludes, "We can't let 'nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror' get in our way" (Grande, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/26).