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Anthem: This Week in Health Reform - September 28 - October 2, 2009
Oct 05, 2009
This week, legislators from the Senate Finance Committee continued mark-up of the legislation proposed by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).
Senate Finance Committee Negotiates Amendments:
After days of negotiations, Sen. Baucus indicated on Wednesday that the Senate Finance Committee now had the necessary votes to pass legislation and that he anticipated finalizing the bill by the end of the week. Lawmakers from the Committee convened this week to continue voting on the hundreds of proposed amendments to the health care reform legislation offered by the senator earlier this month. Committee voting this week included:
Public Support for Reform Increases:
- Rejection of two amendments, one from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and one from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), that would have incorporated a public option in the bill.
- Modification of a financing provision that would make it harder to deduct medical expenses on personal tax returns. Lawmakers voted to exempt taxpayers older than 65.
- Rejection of Republican amendments that would have strengthened limits on both abortion coverage and medical coverage for illegal immigrants.
- Adoption of an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) requiring federal employees, lawmakers and their aides to buy health insurance from the health insurance exchanges to be created by the legislation in 2013.
- Rejection of an amendment proposed by Republicans to allow individuals to opt out of the bill's requirement for everyone to have insurance coverage, upholding the bill's inclusion of an individual mandate.
- Rejection of an amendment proposed by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to require drugmakers to provide $106 billion in rebates over 10 years. The Committee upheld an agreement made last June with drug manufacturers to provide $80 billion in rebates.
- Rejection of two Republican amendments that would have blocked cuts in the Medicare Advantage program.
After a summer embattled by contentious town hall meetings and characterized by slipping public support, the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll indicates that public support for health care reform is now on the rise. About 57% of Americans now say that tackling health care reform is more important than ever - up from 53% in August. However, 47% of Americans favor taking additional time to craft a bipartisan approach to health care reform, compared to 42% who say Democrats should move faster on their own. In addition, substantial majorities support the individual mandate, the employer mandate and an expansion of programs such as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
Small Business Owners Support Health Care Reform:
A recent study by Small Business Majority, a California-based advocacy group, found that small businesses in 17 states are struggling to keep up with health care costs and favor health care reform. Of small business owners in Pennsylvania who do not offer health insurance to employees, 87% say they cannot afford to do so; and, of those who do provide health insurance, 71% are struggling to afford it. Across the 17 states surveyed, 67% of small business owners agreed that health care reform is "urgently needed to fix the U.S. economy" - revealing a growing divide between small business and its traditional Washington ally, the Republican Party.
Young Adults Support Health Care Reform:
While many young adults acknowledge that they do not fully understand the health care reform proposals and the potential costs that younger generations may bear, the group remains one of the strongest supporters of reform legislation.
House Leaders Merge Bills: House Democratic leaders are working to merge the bills from the three House committees:
the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Education and Labor Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. While House leaders now hope to have a final bill sometime in October, they are still debating major elements of the legislation, including whether public-option provider reimbursement rates should be based on Medicare rates and how to reduce the overall cost of the reform legislation. Managing the cost of the legislation is a key requirement for President Barack Obama, who has indicated that a viable bill must be deficit-neutral and cost $900 billion or less over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the cost of the current House package stands at more than $1 trillion.
President Obama Allocates Money for New Medical Research:
On Wednesday, President Obama announced the allocation of $5 billion in grants for medical and scientific research, medical supplies and upgrading laboratory capacity. The funds will be drawn from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Sen. Baucus seeks to finalize the Senate Finance Committee bill today. The Committee vote will be delayed until early next week to give the CBO time to assess the cost of the revised legislation.