Kennedy Plans To Introduce Universal Health Care Bill
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Monday returned to the Senate for the first time since July and reaffirmed his intentions to introduce universal health care legislation next year, the New York Times' "The Caucus" reports. Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer in May (Hulse/Stout, "The Caucus," New York Times, 11/18).
According to the Washington Post, his "brief appearance" at the Senate "represented an opportunity for him to show colleagues that he remains energetic and engaged, and that he intends to reclaim his committee post in January and take charge of the Obama health care agenda."
KennedyÂ directed staffers months ago to begin work on a health care bill that would significantly expand coverage (Murray, Washington Post, 11/18).
In a statement, Kennedy said that he will "continue to lay the ground work for early action by Congress on health reform when President (Barack) Obama takes office in January," adding, "We've been making real progress in our discussions about a consensus approach and I'm optimistic we'll succeed" (Reuters/Boston Globe, 11/18).
Kennedy said, "There's some major issues, obviously, the economy and also environmental issues," but "the president-elect has indicated that this is going to be a priority, and I certainly hope it will" (Washington Post, 11/18). He also indicated that he believed Obama would sign a health care bill early in his presidency (Milligan, Boston Globe, 11/18).
Finance, HELP Committees
Kennedy and HELP Committee ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) will meet with Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday to discuss how to move forward with legislation that would overhaul the U.S. health care system, CongressDaily reports (Edney, CongressDaily, 11/17).
Baucus said he invited Grassley and Enzi to the talks because he hopes the overhaul will have bipartisan support, adding, "We may have to get partisan," but "I very much hope not."
The Finance Committee also will hold a meeting Wednesday on the issue.
In addition, Baucus said he is preparing to submit language for his universal health care plan to the Congressional Budget Office for evaluation (Wayne , CQ Today, 11/17).
The "bleak" economic environment and a "ballooning budget deficit" may "paradoxically spur the kind of costly, sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system that has eluded policymakers in Washington for decades," according to experts from various sectors, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Hospitals and doctors have expressed concerns about the potential burden placed on them as newly unemployed workers lose health insurance and seek care they cannot afford. Liberal advocacy groups point to the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street firms as supporting the case for large-scale investment to help pay for care for low-income individuals, according to the Times.
In addition, businesses "see new urgency in addressing the nation's health care crisis," as they must continue to pay for employees' medical benefits despite decreasing sales and shrinking profit margins, the Times reports.
Todd Stottlemyer, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, said, "Health care reform is very much linked to the broader economic issues that the country is facing," adding, "Our view is that there is energy now to make this a top priority"Â (Levey/Girion, Los Angeles Times, 11/18).