Wednesday, November 4, 2009

House Health Care Reform Measure Sharpens Differences

Tuesday night’s release of a 42 page managers’ amendment to the 1990 page House health care reform bill sharpens the focus of Congressmen on the differences within the Democratic caucus which still plague efforts to marshal the required 218 votes to pass the legislation. Still missing from the 2032 page legislative package are the provisions respecting denial of federal funds for abortion coverage, and for excluding illegal immigrants from participation in federally subsidized health insurance.

The fact that these two issues remain the most contentious within the Democratic caucus gives Republican Congressmen hope that there is still a chance to delay or derail health care reform altogether. House Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter expects the House floor vote on the health reform measure to take place Saturday, since language for the abortion provision is still being worked out, and will have to be included in the rule on the bill, expected to come up for a Rules Committee vote at 2:00 p.m. Friday. “We’re further trying to craft language,” said Congressman Jim Langevin, leaving House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office this afternoon. “We don’t want the abortion issue to be the issue that derails universal health care reform.”

Republicans are already bridling at the move to leave the abortion provision to consideration in the vote on the rule, since the proposed language will not be made public for 72 hours before the floor vote. Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, complained, “If Speaker Pelosi intends to address critical issues like taxpayer funding for abortion in the rule, they should make it available for the American people to read for 72 hours. Transparency means putting the whole bill online for 72 hours.”

New things which are covered in the terms of the managers’ amendment include a $1 billion dollar fund available to states for use in controlling health insurance premium increases, language forcing insurers to disclose pricing differences between on exchange and off exchange policies, limits on “excessive or unjustified” health premium increases, and an estimated $24 billion “pay for” ending paper mill tax credits for burning “black liquor” as a cellulosic alternative fuel.

In the meantime, in efforts to focus the political differences over health care policy, Republicans have introduced their own 219 page health care reform measure, eliminating mandates for citizens to buy coverage and for employers to offer it, and limiting malpractice damage awards for pain and suffering and impaired quality of life to $250,000 in any case of injury or death.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts debate on health care reform in that chamber will spill over into December, and would not commit to being able to send a bill to the Oval Office before the end of this year. “We’re not going to be bound by any timelines. We need to do the best job we can for the American people,” Reid announced at a news conference.

Text of Managers’ Amendment:

Text of House Bill:

Text of Republican Alternative:
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