Markups Continue on Senate Finance Panel’s Health Care Reform Bill
On Friday, the Senate Finance Committee continued mark-ups for its draft health reform bill, Reuters reports (Whitesides, Reuters, 9/25).
According to CongressDaily, committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) offered an optimistic outlook for the bill.
He said, "We have debated, we have questioned, we have prodded at times, and we have discussed -- and discussed," adding, "Most important, we continue to move forward" (Edney, CongressDaily, 9/25).
At Friday's mark-up session, which lasted only until midday, the committee voted 14-9 to reject an amendment by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) that would have eliminated a proposal in the bill to allow the federal government to determine a minimum set of health benefits that insurers must provide. Kyl defended his amendment, saying that such regulations would raise the cost of insurance.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) countered that the mandate is necessary to cover essential medical services like maternity care (Pear/Herszenhorn, New York Times, 9/26).
The committee also rejected an amendment, proposed by committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), that would have eliminated the individual coverage mandate from the bill (Young, The Hill, 9/25).
Meanwhile, by voice vote, the panel passed an amendment that would require pharmacy benefit managers to disclose to HHS the amount of prescription drug discounts that they negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. The amendment -- proposed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) -- would ensure that the data are confidential and limited to commissioners of insurance exchanges and other plans with which PBMs have agreements (CQ HealthBeat, 9/25).
The Finance panel will resume discussions on Tuesday (Reuters, 9/25).
Rockefeller 'Determined' To Protect Self-Insured
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has said that he is "determined to fix" the current Finance Committee proposal so that it includes consumer protections, such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, for U.S. residents who work for companies that self-insure their employees, USA Today reports.
According to Rockefeller, U.S. residents who are employed at large companies that self-insure could be at risk of losing their current health benefits because of the oversight.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, about 73 million residents, or 55% of people who receive private employer-sponsored benefits, are covered in self-insured plans.
In a statement, Erin Shields, a spokesperson for Baucus, said that the consumer protections in the bill are meant for small-business employees and people who purchase health insurance on the individual market (Fritze, USA Today, 9/27).
'Bo-Tax' as Funding Mechanism Still Under Consideration
A proposal to levy a 10% excise tax on elective cosmetic surgeries or medical procedures -- once nicknamed "Bo-Tax," after Botox injections -- would generate about $10.9 billion over 10 years, according to a recent analysis of the proposal by the Joint Committee on Taxation, CongressDaily reports.
The proposal failed to garner wide support in the Finance Committee when it was discussed several months ago, but as lawmakers debate how to fund health reform legislation, the funds are "not insignificant," according to CongressDaily.According to the analysis, the tax would not affect "surgeries or procedures to ameliorate a deformity arising from, or directly related to, a congenital abnormality, a personal injury resulting from an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease." However, it would be levied on procedures such as "liposuction, cosmetic implants, Botox injections, Rogaine (for men only), teeth whitening and tattoo removal" (Cohn, CongressDaily, 9/25). 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.