On Thursday, the House released the text of a budget reconciliation bill to complete their work on health care reform. This followed a report from the Congressional Budget Office estimating that the bill would reduce the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years. House leaders have committed to giving legislators 72 hours to review the bill, so the earliest a vote of the full House could take place would be 2pm on Sunday. The vote would include passage of the Senate bill under “deem and pass” rules. Next, the reconciliation package would go to the Senate.
The changes in the reconciliation bill look very similar to what the President proposed a few weeks ago. I have yet to see a good comparison of the House language with the President’s proposal, but will post when I do. One really good change is that Medicaid payment rates to primary care physicians would be required to be no less than 100% of Medicare (currently, payments vary from state to state but Medicaid often reimburses significantly less than Medicare). The federal government would pick up 100% of this cost. Also, the student loan reform measure was added to the bill text.
Abortion: Abortion continues to be in the spotlight. On Wednesday, the heads of dozens of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns joined the Catholic Health Association in support of the bill:
The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all… And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.
For more on the abortion language in the House and Senate bills, see this op-ed in The Hill newspaper by Tim Jost, a Mennonite and health law expert:
I believe strongly in the sacredness of life and am also a firm supporter of healthcare reform. I am intimately familiar with the abortion provisions of the House and Senate bills, and believe there are no significant differences between them.