Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with a senior Republican staffer on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee about where things stood on Capitol Hill on the health care front.
Today, members of the HELP committee have been meeting to walk through the legislation (aka as the Kennedy bill, after the committee’s chairman), which they will begin to rewrite tomorrow, as part of what’s called the markup process.
The Finance Committee is scheduled to begin the markup of its bill next week, meaning that we should expect to have a draft this week, perhaps Thursday.
The source said that Republicans will be expressing their concerns about the inclusion of a new government run plan, an employer mandate, and the cost of the legislation. The idea is to demonstrate how the actual details of the bill differ from President Obama’s speech to the American Medical Association yesterday. Specifically, showing how the plan won’t be deficit neutral, it won’t preserve people’s ability to keep their own health care, and will indeed lead to rationing of care.
Also, I asked about the provision in the health care bill that I’ve been covering that would kill the Safeway health and wellness program that Obama touted in his AMA speech. By way of background, Safeway has succeeded in reducing its health care costs by providing financial incentives to employees who lead healthier lives, including lower insurance premiums for those with lower weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. As written, the Kennedy bill would kill it, because it bars insurers from charging different premiums based on health status. According to my source, there’s talk of changing the language in the bill to grandfather in programs such as the one Safeway runs, but of course that would still bar other companies from adopting similar programs.
Despite all of the speed bumps ahead, Democrats are insisting that they will be able to rewrite the two major bills in the Senate, merge them together, and pass a unified bill by roughly six weeks from now, before August recess.