Emerging House Health Reform Bill Requires Fine Tuning

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , July 10, 2009

A House healthcare reform bill that appeared to be on a fast track this week for release by Friday hit a yellow flag Thursday night. In part, the Blue Dog Coalition—a group of 52 moderate to conservative Democrats—had called for changes in the legislation, saying that it lacked "a number of elements" to fix what was not working in the current healthcare system.

Coalition members will be meeting with Democratic leadership on Friday to examine potential changes in the legislation—looking specifically at ways to hold down healthcare costs and address disparities in Medicare payments they said could adversely affects rural providers. This makes any release of a bill unlikely until next week.

Any bill that does come from the House "will not be taxing healthcare benefits" and it will have a public insurance option, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday in her weekly address. She predicted that the House will vote on a reform bill and "have it out of here" before the summer recess starts in several weeks.

On the Senate side, the Senate Finance Committee appears to be pushing to have a bill ready by next week. This week the committee has been looking at a 5% "millionaires' tax," basically a surcharge on health benefits for high earners, plus a 1.45% Medicare tax on capital gains income as ways to pay for the legislation. Also under discussion is a proposal to limit deductions for wealthy taxpayers.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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