Inside This Issue - News
Health care reform pace in question
November 9th, 2009
WASHINGTON – A health care reform bill may not make its way out of Congress and onto President Barack Obama’s desk until early next year, lawmakers said earlier this month.
“We’re not going to be bound by any timelines,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said earlier this month. “We need to do the best job we can for the American people.”
In the House, Democrats were pushing to have their bill go to a vote before Congress left for its Veterans Day break on November 11.
Senate leaders say debate there is expected to take longer than in the House because Democrats have yet to receive cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and are trying to get moderates to support the plan.
The CBO estimates were expected to have been available by the end of the first week of November. Democratic leaders said they would not bring their bill to the floor for debate until those figures were released.
The Democratic leaders say all 60 members of the party’s caucus have to be on board with the bill in order to block an expected filibuster by Republicans opposing the proposal.
While delaying passage of a health care bill until next year would be a setback for the White House, which has made enacting a health care overhaul its top domestic priority this year, officials continue to believe that a bill can be passed before Christmas.
Meanwhile, the bill being debated in the House is not sitting well with business leaders.
On November 2 a coalition of employer groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers — unveiled an advertising campaign attacking the House health bill for raising taxes during a bad economy.
Calling itself Employers for a Healthy Economy, the coalition spent a reported $10 million for a week’s worth of ads.
The group argues that the House bill could lead to “millions of new lost jobs” and would mean tax increases and new mandates on business that would worsen the overall
The coalition says it is worried about the bill’s robust public option and a “pay to play” mandate that would require companies to either provide insurance to employees or pay a penalty of 8% of their total payroll.
The health reform bills being pushed by Democrats in the House and in the Senate are designed to extend insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans by expanding the Medicaid federal/state insurance program for the poor and providing new subsidies for low- and middle-income people that offset the cost of health insurance.
Both proposals would require most people to carry health insurance and prevent insurers from denying coverage because of a patient’s medical history.
The plan unveiled by House Republicans earlier this month aims for a far smaller expansion of health insurance coverage. It would not require Americans to carry insurance or stop insurers from denying coverage to those who have been sick.
Instead, the plan would let insurers sell policies across state lines, permit small businesses to pool their risks to bring down costs, and rein in medical malpractice lawsuits by capping noneconomic damages at $250,000.