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Anthem: This Week in Health Reform - August 17-21, 2009

Aug 25, 2009

The survival of the so-called "public option" as the cornerstone of health care reform took center stage this week, as Democrats debated the importance of its inclusion in the final bill. Media reports on Thursday suggested that lawmakers are considering dividing the bill into manageable parts instead of pushing ahead with a large, comprehensive health reform package.

Health Reform Activities

Conflicting Opinions on the Importance of a Public Option: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went on defense this week, following remarks on Sunday from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that a public option was "not essential" to reform. In response, a group of House Democrats sent a sharply worded letter to Sec. Sebelius in which they called the removal of a public option a "grave error." White House officials have since been working to calm a swell of criticism from Democrats, with Sec. Gibbs insisting that the Administration had not taken the public option off the table.

Cooperatives Touted as Public Plan Alternative:
In response to what initially appeared to be a concession from White House officials on the public option, key senators are taking another look at Sen. Kent Conrad's (D-ND) proposal for member-owned, nonprofit cooperatives. GOP leaders, however, have expressed concern over the option. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) voiced his suspicions of the plan, referring to the co-op proposal as "a Trojan horse."

Democrats Focus on Insurance Reforms:
President Obama stepped up attacks on the insurance industry in his recent town hall meetings and on his weekly radio address. He promised reforms preventing insurers from capping coverage or charging "outrageous" fees. President Obama also indicated that people currently with health insurance coverage would be among the biggest beneficiaries of his reform legislation.

Opinion Polls

Poll Shows Slim Majority Still Favors Health Care Reform: The margin between those who support health care reform and those against it has narrowed in recent months, as concerns about reform measures mount. An August Kaiser Family Foundation poll reports that 53 percent of the public believe that tackling health reform is more important than ever, compared to 42 percent who say the country cannot afford to take on health care reform right now.

Looking Ahead

White House officials and key lawmakers continue to negotiate a bipartisan bill over August recess, in an attempt to prepare a final bill for passage this fall.

Lawmakers are slated to return to Washington on September 8.
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