House members continue bickering over reform

Hope is fading in the House on voting on reform before the August recess as Democrats bicker over details, Roll Call reports: "Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Friday that Democratic leaders may push off the health care bill until September if they can't get it finished within the next two weeks."

"Hoyer asserted that Democrats had made major progress on a draft agreement to address regional disparities in Medicare rates and expressed confidence that the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) would be able to work together and mark up the bill this week, despite a series of false starts."

Waxman and major Blue Dog Democrat health player Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., came to an impasse over reform Friday, but said work would be done over the weekend on the legislation, Roll Call reports (Dennis and Drucker, 7/27).

The Wall Street Journal: "A leader of the fiscally conservative group of representatives said he expects any vote on the House's health proposal would have to wait, likely until after Labor Day. 'I think the American people want to take a closer look at this legislation. They want to feel more comfortable with it,' Rep. Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog from Tennessee, said on CBS's Face the Nation" ... Blue Dogs have emerged as pivotal players in the national health-care debate, a swing group that the White House is wooing more intensely to keep its initiative on track. The group, which accounts for about one-fifth of House Democrats, wants to make sure the health-care plan isn't too expensive for small businesses and hopes to keep the government's costs down" (Bendavid, 7/27). 

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi is again "vowing passage" of reform, The Washington Post reports. "'When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,' Pelosi (Calif.) said on CNN's State of the Union. 'This will happen.'"

"The speaker, who has struggled to overcome a series of recent setbacks, raised the stakes by planning to restart talks Monday among bickering Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of three House panels with jurisdiction over health care and where the bill stalled last week," the Post added (Murray and Kane, 7/27).

The Hill: "Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson says that President Obama needs to ramp up the pressure on House Democrats holding up the healthcare reform bill so that the lower chamber passes it before heading home for August recess. According to the Georgia lawmaker, he told a White House official on the Hill for negotiations to 'ask the president to turn up the heat, targeting the folks who are holding it up - as he has been doing - but don't stop. We need as much help from the president as we can get'" (Hooper, 7/25).

In the meantime, House Republicans are giving snippets of their own bill - many as amendments - without divulging what exactly is in them, Roll Call reports in a separate story: "Barton said the Republican alternative, which he hopes to offer in committee, would probably cost about $500 billion over 10 years when it is scored by the Congressional Budget Office, far less than the Democratic plan (which has been scored to cost $1.6 trillion)."

The Republican reform plan includes tax cuts and vouchers for insurance as well as a new insurance pool. It would also prevent a cut in doctors' pay via Medicare and may include a co-operative insurance plan (Dennis, 7/24).

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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