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22-Jul-2009
 

Healthcare Reform Snapshot

Congressional action regarding health care reform is very dynamic and changes almost daily. As such, any  information contained below could already be, or will shortly become obsolete. Gilsbar will follow the proceedings in Washington on a daily basis and provide updates as details of plans become clearer.

With two separate healthcare reform bills passed in House and Senate committees and another proposal being drafted by the Senate Finance Committee, many are asking a very simple question relative to health care reform…”Ok, so now what?”

WHAT is the latest?
Drafting a bill and getting it to pass a Committee vote is the first step in the long process of passing comprehensive healthcare reform legislation. Beginning this week members of Congress and the Obama Administration began a more focused process of finding out if the congress as a whole is willing to pass one of the reform proposals presented, or if additional adjustments need to be made before a bill will be put to the full House or Senate for a vote.

Also this week, 20 freshmen members of the House joined the 50 member, fiscally conservative group called the Blue Dog Democrats in opposing $544 billion worth of tax increases spelled out in the House bill and decried the inability of the House leadership to produce a “deficit-neutral” healthcare bill as they had promised.

Meanwhile, six moderate senators including Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking them to abandon the August deadline and grant more time to build bipartisan support for a bill noting that it is critical to achieving true reform.

Perhaps the reason some members of Congress are coming out against the basic ideas contained in reform proposals (or suggesting the administration slow down on its push toward a Fall deadline) could have developed as a result of comments from Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office. During testimony last Friday, Elmendorf indicated that the House and Senate proposals being reviewed in Committee (WHICH COMMITTEE???) do not propose the changes necessary to reduce healthcare costs, On the contrary, they are more likely to increase healthcare costs. Elmendorf also suggested that instead of averting a potential fiscal crisis associated with the rising costs of healthcare, the proposals being suggested could actually make things even worse.

WHAT does the public think?
In a survey released by USA Today last week, 80% of people surveyed say it's extremely or very important that Congress pass legislation that makes health insurance more affordable. However, in the same survey, some of the basic ideas being offered in the proposals to control costs are not being met with the same kind of approval.

  • 93% want their health care plan to cover any medical treatment their doctor thinks is needed
  • 88% want to be able to choose any doctor or hospital they like
  • 90% oppose limits on getting whatever tests or treatments they and their doctor think are necessary

In additional, polling numbers released on Monday, July 20, 2009, showed that only 49% of people surveyed approve of the way President Obama is dealing with the healthcare issue (his only mark below 50%), citing cost and moving too quickly as the main contributors for their opinion.

WHERE can I learn more about what is proposed?
Over the next few weeks, the various reform proposals will be changing on a daily basis. For interested parties, keeping track of it all will be a very big job. To help with this, the Kaiser Family Foundation has created an interactive side-by-side tool that compares the leading comprehensive reform proposals and their key components. Included in the tool are the leading proposals, plus concepts that have been offered as principles or in White Paper form as a guide to create legislation. To access the side-by-side tool, please click on the below link.

http://www.kff.org/healthreform/sidebyside.cfm