PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: GOP Leaders Request Compromise Bill
Ditching their plan to have the full House vote on an HMO reform bill modeled on the version already passed by the Senate, House GOP leaders yesterday created an "ad hoc working group of members from the three committees with jurisdiction over the issue" to hash out a new plan, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Led by Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R- CA), the small group of House Republicans are scurrying to cobble together a "composite measure that could be unveiled as soon as late today and voted on next week." Commerce health and environment subcommittee Chair Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Education and the Workforce employer-employee relations subcommittee Chair John Boehner (R-OH) and the Rules Committee's Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) are expected to take the lead in crafting the new bill they hope will lure nearly 30 "renegade Republicans" who seem to be siding with the Democrats' approach. Earlier yesterday, GOP leaders seemed be "leaning toward using as a framework for debate last year's House-passed Patient Protection Act," which narrowly passed 216-210, until "it soon became clear that last year's House bill was also a nonstarter." Rep. Charles Norwood (R-GA), who has had a hand in stalling action in both the Commerce and Workforce and Education committees, said the "bill won't pass the smell test" (Rovner/Morrissey, 7/29). In hashing out a new reform package, writers are expected to "make the external review process more binding" and Thomas is lobbying to add a tax provision to the bill to extend coverage to the uninsured (Morrissey, CongressDaily, 7/28).
A Closer Look
In her "HealthMatters" column in today's CongressDaily/A.M., Julie Rovner takes a look at the "cleverness of the Republicans' work" to come "up with amendments of their own that sounded like, but did not actually match, what Democrats wanted to do." A careful reading of the Senate-passed bill and the Democrats' plan reveals their "significant" differences, she says, pointing to the Senate-passed version that would allow "direct access" to obstetrical care only for "routine" services and would allow patients to participate in clinical trials, but only those 48 million in self-funded plans. She concludes: "To a public incapable of understanding the subtleties of the dueling measures, the Senate-passed bill looks only slightly different from the Democrats' measure. Yet the lobbyists for the business and insurance communities do understand how much more limited it is. The death of John Kennedy Jr. helped bump off the front pages the stories that were just starting to point out those differences, much as the shootings of two Capitol Hill policemen just minutes after the House passed its managed care bill in 1998 deflected attention from the details of that measure" (7/29).