Jul 17, 2009
Federal Healthcare Update
Everything is moving forward at a quick pace this week, with markups progressing in the House, and the Senate Finance Committee continuing negotiations.
Within 48 hours of the unveiling of the House Tri-Committee bill, two of the three Committees in the House were done with markup. In marathon sessions, the House Ways and Means Committee finished marking up its provisions of the bill around 1 a.m. Thursday, and the House Education and Labor Committee completed its markup early this morning. The votes were nearly along party lines; three Democrats voted against the bill in each Committee.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee markup also continues. This markup is expected to be more time consuming, as there are six Blue Dog Democrats on the Committee that may need to be convinced before the bill can be passed.
Although the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not officially scored the bill, Doug Elmendorf, Director of the CBO, testified before the Senate Budget Committee yesterday with bad news for proponents of the bill. In response to a question from Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), Elmendorf said, “In the legislation that has been reported, we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount, and on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs.” His statement means that the bill would do nothing to curb health care costs, which is one of the prime objectives, as laid out by President Obama, for health care reform legislation. However, we will probably have to wait for the official CBO score to see how it will impact the legislation’s chances moving forward.
The Senate Finance Committee continues to work towards a bipartisan deal for its health care reform bill. All eyes will continue to be on the Committee until they can hammer out a deal, which will then have to be combined with the recently passed HELP bill before it can move to the floor.
President Obama continues to make health care reform a top priority, and he is gathering all his available resources to make the case to the American public. In a televised address today, he emphasized that the House Tri-Committee bill had been endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association. Obama urged lawmakers to come together to finish the long race for health care reform, saying, “Now we’ve got to get over the finish line.”