The on-again, off-again, on-again negotiations on health care reform proposals in the House and the Senate continued at a dizzying pace this week. For those of you following the ping-pong match, here is the latest…
In the House:
After repeated starts and stops, the Democratic leadership, the Blue Dogs (conservative Democrats), and the Progressive Caucus reached an agreement that allowed debate to continue in the Energy & Commerce committee on Thursday. This is the last of three committees to mark up the legislation before it goes to the full House. Some of the compromises made reportedly include:
- Total cost below $1 trillion
- No fix for Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors
- Restrictions on how a government-sponsored plan can negotiate rates
- Nonprofit cooperatives alongside a public option (government plan)
- States can run their own insurance exchanges
- Small businesses with payroll under $500,000 are exempt from employer mandate
- No individual mandate
Amendments accepted thus far include:
- Abortion services will not be part of the required minimum health benefit package, except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother
- Restrictions on “comparative effectiveness research” (research to compare the costs and benefits of various medical treatments to determine which are most effective)
- Eliminate waiting periods for children to receive health insurance
Also, an amendment offered by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) that would have prohibited individuals from receiving medical care unless they could prove that they were U.S. citizens was narrowly defeated 29-28. Of course, any or all of these details could change once the legislation goes to the full house. As always, it’s important to contact your legislators to let them know what you want in the final bill. For advocacy resources, click here.
The Energy & Commerce committee may finish it’s markup tonight, but the bill won’t go to the full House until after the August recess.
In the Senate:
Early in the week it looked like the Senate Finance Committee was close to releasing its health care proposal. Finance is one of two committees working on health care reform legislation. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee finished its work on July 15.
However, on Thursday night, Finance chair Max Baucus announced that his committee would not begin debate on their bill before the August recess. Baucus has assembled a 6-member bipartisan group that is working to craft compromise legislation. Among the unresolved issues are how to make insurance affordable for those who aren’t covered through employers, whether to provide coverage to immigrants, and concerns about abortion funding.
Over the August recess, I’ll work to put together a summary of what the House and Senate bills propose, as they currently stand. Stay tuned…
Nearly 50 million Americans currently lack health insurance. According to the Center for American Progress, 14,000 more lose their insurance every day. Your congregation can pray, reflect, and act for health care reform for all. Visit washington.mcc.org/life to learn more.