First Edition: December 18, 2009

The highlights from today's headlines focus on continuing movement in the Senate toward a pre-Christmas health overhaul vote -- but many questions about its cost, and how many votes it can attract, persist.

COBRA Help For Laid-Off Workers May Come Before Christmas Laid-off workers may soon get a reprieve from one of their worries. A proposal to extend the health insurance subsidies for Americans who have lost jobs as a result of the recession is one step closer to gaining congressional approval. The proposal, which passed the House Wednesday night, is tacked onto both the House defense appropriations and jobs-creation bills and would give some unemployed Americans an extra six months of help paying for their COBRA coverage (Kaiser Health News).

A Race To Win One More Vote For Health Bill The White House and Senate Democratic leaders seem willing to give Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, just about anything he wants to win his support of major health care legislation. Anything, that is, but the item at the top of Mr. Nelson's wish-list: air-tight restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions (The New York Times).

Harry Reid Plays It Close To The Vest As Reid works furiously to line up the 60 votes he needs for the most sweeping health care bill in generations, the majority leader is playing an insider's insider's game (Politico).

Senate, With Incomplete Numbers, On Track For Votes Senate Democrats have favorable, though incomplete, CBO numbers in hand on the healthcare overhaul, but one potential key vote wants to put the brakes on taking a final vote before Christmas (Congress Daily).

Senate Healthcare Bill Now Relies On Regulation When Senate Democratic leaders agreed this week to remove a public insurance plan from their massive healthcare bill, they did more than quash a liberal dream of expanding the government safety net. They effectively pinned their hopes of guaranteeing coverage to all Americans on a far more conventional prescription: government regulation (Los Angeles Times).

Senate Democrats Block GOP Filibuster Senate Republicans failed early Friday in their bid to filibuster a massive Pentagon bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an unusual move designed to delay President Obama's health-care legislation (The Washington Post).

Health Care Deadline Obstacles Pile Up With the clock ticking down on health care reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has until Saturday to strike a 60-vote compromise if Democrats hope to meet a Christmas Eve deadline - but the obstacles kept piling up Thursday (Politico).

A Merry Christmas; Senate Eyes Dec. 24 Vote On Health Reform The Senate is heading toward a Christmas Eve vote to pass landmark healthcare legislation, but instead of holiday cheer, Democrats and Republicans are digging in for trench warfare (The Hill).

Health Care Bill In Balance Without Nelson's Vote A year in the making, sweeping health care legislation backed by President Barack Obama hung in the balance Thursday as conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson withheld his vote in pursuit of stricter abortion limits and liberals grew restive on the left (The Associated Press).

Sen. Nelson Holds Up Health Bill Senate Democrats' drive to pass health-care legislation by Christmas showed signs of faltering Thursday, amid divisions over abortion and criticism by some Democratic supporters that the bill is unaffordable for lower-to-middle-income families (The Wall Street Journal).

Liberal Revolt On Health Care Stings White House In the great health care debate of 2009, President Obama has cast himself as a cold-eyed pragmatist, willing to compromise in exchange for votes. Now ideology — an uprising on the Democratic left — is smacking the pragmatic president in the face (The New York Times).

Angry Liberals Edge Toward A Mutiny Liberals for months have loyally supported health-care legislation, even as party leaders have shed or shrunk their prized elements, concluding that a flawed bill is better than none. But some seem to have reached a tipping point (The Wall Street Journal).

President Obama's Troops Break Ranks On Health Care The foot soldiers of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, organized to go into action when key elements of his agenda are at stake, aren't universally enthusiastic about fighting for the health care compromise now before the Senate (Politico).

It's Now Democrat Vs. Democrat On Health Care It's one of the oldest spectator sports in American politics: Democrat vs. Democrat. Welcome to the health care overhaul edition (The Associated Press).

Health Underwriters Help To Navigate Insurance Market There is one piece of the health care overhaul bill that almost everyone seems to agree on. It has to do with the individual insurance market. Those are plans that you buy on your own — not the kind you get through your employer. Insurers will not be allowed to deny people coverage to pre-existing health conditions (NPR).

Ban Lifted On Federal Funding For Needle Exchange Congress had banned the use of federal money to finance needle exchange programs. Supporters of the ban thought such programs encouraged drug use. Now, activists see the lifting of the ban as a step forward in the fight to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS (NPR).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Daily Health Policy Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


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