Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) recent vote to reject an amendment to the Senate health reform bill that would have prohibited coverage of abortion services in any health plan insuring people who receive federal subsidies has brought renewed attention to an issue that has haunted her political career, the AP/Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Landrieu, one of the few Louisiana politicians who support abortion rights, said that she voted against the amendment because she believed it would have removed legal abortion coverage from private plans, thus violating the pledge that people who like their current health insurance coverage would be able to keep it under reform.
Over the weekend, Senate Democrats continued efforts to reach an agreement on abortion coverage under the chamber's health care reform bill after Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he would not support the measure without additional restrictions, the New York Times ' "Prescriptions" reports. The Senate recently rejected an amendment proposed by Nelson and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that would have prohibited any federally subsidized insurance plan from offering abortion coverage. A similar amendment is included in the House health reform bill (HR 3962) (Herszenhorn, "Prescriptions, " New York Times, 12/14). According to the AP/NPR, Nelson is one of the 60 votes needed to block a GOP filibuster in the Senate and pass the final bill (Kellman, AP/NPR, 12/14).
CongressDaily: "Senators continued to quibble over procedure Thursday, complicating Majority Leader [Harry] Reid's plans to file cloture on three pieces of his healthcare bill at once, a procedural step he hopes will allow passage before Christmas, though that appears increasingly unlikely." Reid's plan, which involves filing for cloture on the underlying Democratic-backed health bill, a manager's amendment and a substitute amendment, "will not allow cloture time on the three to run concurrently but would minimize the total time used because one cloture motion would be taken up with no wasted time immediately after the vote on the prior one.
Indianapolis Star: "As the health-care reform debate boiled over this week, so did WellPoint's stock price. Shares of the Indianapolis-based health insurance giant surged to a 52-week high Thursday as the prospects for a new government-run 'public option' health plan faded amid intense Senate debate. WellPoint rivals Cigna and UnitedHealth Group also hit 52-week highs. It's a sign, more than one observer suggested, of victory for private health insurers, which strenuously fought the public option. ... Through the first nine months of 2009, the health services and HMO industry has spent $52.8 million and used 988 lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
News reports today include profiles of people who work in the health care industry and people struggling with their insurance coverage. USA Today profiles a few of the "men and women at the front lines of the national health care debate - who run hospitals, nursing homes, community health care centers and private practices" - and asks what they think about the possible changes that Congress could enact as part of a health care overhaul. "Some of the CEOs and administrators say they look forward to legislation that could provide health insurance for up to 96% of legal residents under the age of 65, compared with the 83% who have it now. But they're also skeptical that the government will be able to cut skyrocketing costs and help provide coverage to as many as now need help.
Insurers' profits are a lightning rod for reform advocates. Aetna's earnings have now attracted reprimand from Senate Democrats who say the major insurance company overstated it spending on patient care in regulatory filings, minimizing profits and overhead, The Wall Street Journal reports. "The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation launched an investigation last summer into the percentage of premiums insurers spend on medical care versus profits and other administrative expenses. That percentage, known in the industry as 'the medical-loss ratio, ' is watched closely by detractors who say insurers take too much money from the system in profits.