House Committees prepare for votes on health reform bill

Votes are planned Thursday in the House Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees on a $1.5 trillion plan to overhaul the nation's health care system, The Associated Press reports.

"The legislation seeks to provide coverage to nearly all Americans by subsidizing the poor and penalizing individuals and employers who don't purchase health insurance. A third House committee, Energy and Commerce, also was considering the measure Thursday, but the road was expected to be rougher there. A group of fiscally conservative House Democrats called the Blue Dogs holds more than half-a-dozen seats on the committee - enough to block approval - and is opposing the bill over costs and other issues."

"The Energy and Commerce Blue Dogs met Wednesday to consider what amendments they would offer, and the panel scheduled vote sessions daily through next Wednesday in what promised to be an arduous process to reach consensus" (Werner, 7/16).

The Blue Dogs are promising to get in the way of reform if their demands aren't met, The Hill reports. "Seven Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have banded together to draft amendments that they'll co-sponsor in the committee markup, which starts Thursday. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dogs' point man on healthcare, says if those changes aren't accepted, they'll vote down the bill. … Ross knows of three additional Democrats on the committee who won't support the bill in its current form, creating a base of 10 Democratic opponents. The committee has 59 members: 23 Republicans and 36 Democrats."

"Blue Dogs think the bill fails to do enough to reduce healthcare costs, jeopardizes jobs with a fee on employers that don't provide health insurance, and would base a government-run healthcare plan on a Medicare payment system that already penalizes their rural districts" (Soraghan, 7/15).

CNN: Ross said "he wasn't satisfied with the penalty exemption for small businesses that don't provide health insurance for employees. An earlier draft of the Democrats' bill exempted businesses from paying a penalty if their payrolls were less than $100,000. Democratic leaders raised that payroll amount to $250,000" (Walsh, 7/16).

NPR: "On "Wednesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives pushed forward their version of health reform, holding the first hearing on the details of a plan that would spend $1 trillion over 10 years and cover 97 percent of citizens by 2015, according to a preliminary analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. … (Also on Wednesday,) the House Education and Labor Committee opened its first drafting session amid strong reactions from business leaders and Republicans who objected to a proposal that all companies provide health insurance or pay a penalty. The penalty would be equal to 8 percent of wages for companies that don't provide a certain level of coverage. Small businesses would pay lesser penalties, on a sliding scale based on their annual payroll." Republicans are also pushing back on a so-called "wealth" tax to charge the highest earners in America a surtax to pay for reform (Rovner and Neel, 7/15).

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer met with moderate Republicans Wednesday to talk health care across the aisle, Politico reports: "Republicans wanted to know how the new program of government-sponsored health coverage would work and what impact the legislation would have on small businesses. Leaving the meeting, the moderate GOP lawmakers said they were grateful Hoyer made the trip even if they won't support the bill. 'It's commendable that he came, but there's not a single vote in there,' said Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk, a member of the group who is expected to announce a Senate bid next Monday" (O'Connor, 7/16).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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