House Republicans Plan To Move Several Health Care Bills to Floor in July
House Republican leaders this month plan to bring several health care bills to a vote, CQ Today reports.
House Republican aides said floor action during the week of July 25 is expected on a bill (HR 525) that would allow small businesses to buy health insurance through business and trade associations. According to CQ Today, action also is expected on a measure sponsored by Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) that would make it easier for insurers to expand sales of health care policies into additional states, and the House also could consider a proposal (HR 1872) to expand health savings accounts for small businesses.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that in July he intends to address proposals dealing with health information technology, patient safety and association health plans.
A senior Senate aide said a "healthy America" bill (S 4) likely would incorporate provisions for association health plans and measures intended to increase competition among health insurers and lower health care premiums. The aide said that action on this bill is not likely in July but added that Frist could push a bill (S 852) introduced to settle health-related asbestos claims.
Another senior Republican aide said that Frist would like to move a proposal (S 1262) he co-sponsored with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to develop nationwide electronic patient records, but that Frist likely would wait until appropriations bills are passed.
Frist also must deal with the likely passage in the Senate of a bill (S 471) that would expand funding for embryonic stem cell research. Frist has been working to secure support for alternate measures that have the support of President Bush and other Republicans who oppose abortion rights.
Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) said, "Many of us wanted to make this the health care Congress," adding, "We must move on health care legislation or there will be major dissatisfaction."
House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, "There is strong consensus for action on health care."
Republican pollster Q. Whitfield Ayres said Republicans hope that the passage of popular health care bills will increase public interest in the 2003 Medicare law (Ota, CQ Today, 7/8).
In related news, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) has introduced legislation (S 1329) that would provide a health care tax credit to small businesses with as many as 100 employees and allow companies to join purchasing pools to obtain lower insurance rates, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The bill would provide a tax credit of as much as 50% to small businesses that currently offer health benefits and includes provisions to encourage other small businesses to begin offering health care benefits. Under the proposal, small businesses would be encouraged to join state-run purchasing pools to increase their bargaining power with insurance companies (CQ HealthBeat, 7/8).