Stark: Vote on Health Care Reform Might Not Come Early in 2009
During a conference call sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future on Wednesday, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said a vote on health care overhaul legislation likely would not occur during the first 100 days of the Obama administration and could be put off until late 2009 or 2010, The Hill reports.
Stark is chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.
Congress has "deferred maintenance" issues to address, including several smaller health care matters, before it can consider an overhaul, according to Stark.
However, he said that a comprehensive plan would have to be voted on by early 2010 at the latest, because waiting any longer would "put the campaign at risk of being caught up in the politics of the midterm congressional elections," The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 12/17).
Stark said that Congress likely will vote on legislation to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program early in 2009 (CongressDaily, 12/17).
Stark also said that he would support a comprehensive health care overhaul bill only if it included a public health insurance option similar to Medicare, Dow Jones reports.
Stark said that although Medicare is often accused of underpaying health care providers, it is the private plans that actually pay too much. According to Stark, "Medicare is paying the right amount" (Yoest, Dow Jones, 12/17).
Stark was joined on the call by Jacob Hacker, a University of California professor who released a report on Wednesday touting the benefits of including a public coverage option in a health care overhaul.
Hacker said, "The core argument is that public insurance has distinct strengths and thus, offered as a choice on a level playing field with the private plans, can serve as an important benchmark for private insurance within a reformed health care framework."
Hacker also reiterated Stark's point that Medicare does a better job of controlling health care costs and said it has "pioneered new payment and quality-improvement methods that have frequently set the standard for private plans."
Stark and Hacker said they did not intend for a public plan to replace private insurance but that such a situation could occur (Wayne, CQ Today, 12/17). He also said, "In the absence of a public plan that people could opt into, you would have to so strictly regulate the other plans that they, in effect, would ... all have to become public plans then" (Dow Jones, 12/17).