Friday, December 4, 2009

Secret Health Care Reform Deals Building Up In Managers’ Amendment

While the Senate floor debate on the health care reform legislation continues along predictable partisan lines, with speeches concerning dramatic reductions in grandma’s Medicare benefits and the evils of federally funded abortion coverage, the real version of the Senate bill continues to be formed deal by deal in secret in Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Senate office just across the corridor from the stately Senate Chamber in the nation’s Capitol. Reid meets privately, one on one, with Democrat Senators, asking them what they need in the managers’ amendment he will present right before the final floor vote.

Managers of legislation in the Senate have the right to accept suggested amendments to the text of legislation which has been published to members and made available to the public, and to make those changes in the bill under debate right up until the voting begins. So, neither fellow Senators nor average citizens really know what the Senate is voting on until the last second. Reid isn’t telling anyone other than the particular Senator requesting a special provision in the managers’ amendment what he is promising, and no one at all but Reid knows what the aggregate text of the managers’ amendment looks like as time marches on.

We do know that Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska will be proposing a floor vote on his amendment which would prohibit abortion coverage altogether for anyone buying insurance from the public option and anyone who receives a federal premium subsidy. Nelson’s proposal is even more restrictive than the Stupak amendment in the House legislation.

Meanwhile, Republican amendment proposals include everything from their pet limitations on medical malpractice non-economic damages to a $400,000 ceiling on salaries of health insurance company executives.

Mercer Consulting released results of a survey shows 70% of the businesses say they will cut the health benefits available to its employees rather than pay the proposed tax on Cadillac health insurance coverage. So much for President Obama’s promise that “if you are happy with your present health insurance, you can keep it.” Sixty-three percent of businesses responding to the survey said they would cut back benefits rather than pay the tax, and another 7% said they would terminate their health plans altogether. Only 16% of those who would cut benefits said they would return any of the savings to employees in the form of higher pay. If these numbers play out, health care reform will have a negative effect on about 89% of Cadillac plan participants, most of whom are trade union members.

Thursday the Senate rejected, by a vote of 58-42, a Republican amendment to the health care bill which would have restored the $500 billion in Medicare cuts the Democrats are using to “pay for” the enormous cost of the health care reform legislation.
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