Insurance News

Healthcare Debate Still Dominating Washington

Posted on: October 22, 2009

With the Senate Finance Committee voting to approve its version of healthcare legislation last week, the time has come for congressional leaders in both chambers to begin the difficult task of reconciling it with the several other reform bills that have been passed out of committee. Much of this process will be done behind closed doors this week and the Senate has at least indicated that there could be something on the floor by the end of the week.

Much of the press last week focused on the Finance Committee chairman Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who managed to get his bill through committee by a 14-9 vote, and Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican to vote in favor of the measure. While the committee vote was touted as a major step forward, the process is far from finished. The Health Education Labor and Pensions committee has its own healthcare reform bill, meaning that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will have to blend the two together before beginning to work with the House, which has three separate healthcare bills of its own. ?There are many competing views of how to best move health care reform. There are different views within my caucus. There are different views in the House,? Reid said, according to Roll Call.

Virtually all of the major battles that were fought in past weeks over issues like the public option, individual mandates to purchase coverage, and the costs of reform to consumers and taxpayers are likely to be refought. Already both sides have begun jockeying for position, and the question of whether or not Sen. Snowe?s vote earned her any input in the future negotiations still remains unanswered.

After the vote, Sen. Baucus told stated that he thought Reid ?wants a smaller group? working to meld the two bills that would not include Snowe. However, a Reid spokesperson later said that, ?in light of the fact that Senator Snowe was the only Republican to vote in support of health reform, she will of course play an important role as we move forward.?

Also causing a stir last week was America?s Health Insurance plans, who released a report days before the committee vote claiming the bill would cause significantly increases in premiums. Democrats responded by attacking the report as a biased attempt to sink the legislation. Additionally, some Democrats, including Reid, suggested that Congress should revoke the health insurance industry?s limited anti-trust exemption in the aftermath of the report. Legislation to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson [link to McCarran AU story] limited antitrust exemptions for health insurers and medical malpractice insurers is now currently under consideration.

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