Health and Fitness

GOP Playbook Highlights Senate Procedural Tactics

A memo (.pdf) circulated by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., spells out the arsenal of parliamentary maneuvers available to Republicans as they seek to stall the Senate's health debate, The New York Times reports on its Prescriptions blog. Gregg has a reputation as one of the GOP's "foremost experts on legislative war games." Gregg also has drawn up a GOP battle plan for use "in the event that Democrats tried to fast-track the health care legislation" by using budget reconciliation, which allows for legislation to pass with a simple majority. But the Times notes, "So far, Democrats have said they hope to pass the bill under regular procedures, with full debate. And that means Republicans will have a hefty arsenal by which they can try to slow down debate and force the majority leader, Harry Reid, to miss his goal of completing the bill by Christmas" (Herszenhorn, 12/2). Politico : The memo highlights 15 procedural tactics such as "demanding a new legislative day and 'hard' quorum calls" that Republicans can enlist.

Reid Still Seeks Common Ground On Public Option

"The public option has gone through several stages of evolution this year, but it could soon face extinction unless one of the new versions picks up political momentum, " The Hill reports. "Senate Democrats have marketed a new 'opt-out' public option in recent weeks, and another proposal is expected next week. The proposals have fended off GOP calls for the elimination of the government-run healthcare plan. But it remains to be seen how much life is left in the public option, because no variation has attracted the backing of 60 senators." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is working to "unite liberals who demand the creation of a government-run public option insurance program with centrists who continue to resist" (Young, 12/3). In a separate article, The Hill reports on what some of the key players, including Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have said about a public option (Young, 12/3). Reuters : "Most Americans would like to see a 'public option' in health insurance reform but doubt anything Congress does will lower costs or improve care in the short term, according to a poll released on Thursday.

Senate Leaders Say Health Bill Amendment Votes To Start Today

The Wall Street Journal reports that "after three days of debates without a vote on a single amendment ... Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, (D., Ill.) announced Wednesday evening that" Republicans and Democrats had "come to agreement" on how to proceed. The first two votes will occur today "on amendments aimed at requiring health plans to cover preventive services for women's health. The first, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), would give the Health and Human Services secretary authority to authorize the services, with the aim of ensuring that women over 40 receive mammograms and other treatments." The other, "a Republican alternative offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R., Alaska), would ensure that ... the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force could not rule out preventive treatments." (Yoest, 12/2). Bloomberg : Other amendments being advanced by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers include a proposed repeal of health insurers' antitrust exemption, and "an amendment that would use similar language as in the House to ensure that no federal funds are used to pay for abortions.

Will 'Cadillac Tax' Push Employers To Trim Health Insurance Costs

Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby examines the potential reach of the Cadillac tax. She writes that "two-thirds of employers would raise deductibles, change insurers or scale back coverage to avoid the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost benefits proposed in the Senate Democrats' health care bill, a survey to be released Thursday by consulting firm Mercer says" (11/2). Read entire story. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.org. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

Abortion-Rights Advocates Lobby Lawmakers On Health Reform; Amendment Votes Expected

Hundreds of abortion-rights supporters on Wednesday visited Capitol Hill to insist that access to health insurance plans that include abortion coverage not be further restricted under health care reform legislation, the New York Times reports (Pear/Herszenhorn, New York Times, 12/3). The rally was organized by the Coalition To Pass Health Care Reform and Stop Stupak! -- which includes dozens of groups that advocate for abortion rights, women's rights and civil rights -- to oppose Reps. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts' (R-Pa.) amendment to the House health reform bill ( HR 3962 ), CBS News' " Political Hotsheet " reports (Condon, "Political Hotsheet, " CBS News, 12/2). The amendment would ban insurance plans, public or private, that receive federal subsidies from covering abortion services ( Women's Health Policy Report, 12/2). Several abortion-rights supporters in Congress attended the rally, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.

Senators Prepare To Debate Abortion Treatment In Senate Bill

The Associated Press : "Senators debating health care legislation are headed for a clash over abortion, the issue that threatened to derail the bill in the House. Anticipating the showdown, hundreds of abortion rights supporters gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday to call on senators to keep new abortion restrictions out of the health care bill. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., plans to unveil an anti-abortion amendment as early as Thursday that abortions rights supporters inside the Senate and out say they can't support. Nelson says he won't vote for the underlying bill without his strong abortion language. But opponents say his amendment doesn't have the votes to pass." "The outcome could be critical in determining the fate of President Barack Obama's signature health overhaul agenda. At issue is how abortions would be handled in the health care bills. ... Behind the scenes, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who opposes abortions but wants to vote for the overall health care bill, has been working to find language that could satisfy both sides" (Werner, 12/2).

Democrats Push For Extension As COBRA Subsidies Expire

Subsidies to help people pay for COBRA benefits - the program that lets laid off or departing employees temporarily hang on to their health coverage - are drying up, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The subsidies, which pay for 65 percent of the often-costly premiums, became available in March as part of the economic stimulus legislation. But they only last for nine months, and the first wave of applicants are now losing their benefits. And, after Dec. 31, the assistance will no longer be available to the newly unemployed (Rosetta, 12/1). People are beginning to worry. The Detroit Free Press reports, "Alida Holmes is frightened to be without health insurance for the first time as an adult. в She can't afford the $500-a-month coverage on her own, so Holmes, 60, a laid-off legal secretary who lives in Detroit, began several months ago to reduce the dosages of medicines she takes for high blood pressure and a lung disorder, so she'd have drugs for awhile after her coverage expired" (Anstett, 12/2).

Health Bill's Lesser-Known Provisions Could Have Big Impact

News outlets report on some of the lesser-known provisions of the health care bills pending in Congress, including possible improvements for the Indian Health System and mandated calorie count labels on vending machines. The New York Times : "The health care overhaul now being debated in Congress appears poised to bring the most significant improvements to the Indian health system in decades. After months of negotiations, provisions under consideration could, over time, direct streams of money to the Indian health care system and give Indians more treatment options. Some proposals, like exempting Indians from penalties for not obtaining insurance, may meet resistance from lawmakers opposed to expanding benefits for Indians, many of whom receive free medical care. But advocates say the changes recognize Indians' unique status and could ease what Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, calls 'full-scale health care rationing going on on Indian reservations'" (Belluck, 12/1).

Mass. Democratic Senate Candidates Clash Over Abortion, Health Reform In Debate

The four Democratic primary candidates for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) sparred over abortion coverage under health care reform in a "testy" debate Tuesday night, the Boston Globe reports (Viser/Phillips, Boston Globe, 12/2). Candidate Stephen Pagliuca contended that two other candidates, Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, were not reliable votes for health reform legislation because they have said they would oppose a bill that includes strict limitations on abortion coverage. Coakley said, "I don't think we want a bill at any price, " adding, "It's personal with me, and it's personal with every woman who's watching this" (LeBlanc, AP/South Coast Today, 12/2). Pagliuca said, "It's personal with me, too, " adding, "We have 45, 000 people dying because they have no access to insurance. That's the greater good." Capuano asked Pagliuca if he had ever known a poor woman in need of an abortion without health care coverage.

With Restructuring Deadline Looming, UAW Seeks To Protect VEBA In The Circumstance Of Chrysler Bankruptcy Filing

The Treasury Department and United Car Workers have "an treaty in principle" that would protect the health aggravation benefits and pension plans of Chrysler Group retirees whether the company files for bankruptcy, according to family with knowledge of the negotiations, the New York Times reports. Chrysler must present the Obama governance with a arrangement by Apr 30 for fitting and remaining financially viable, in computation to avoid bankruptcy and cop the the rest of a federal loan granted in Dec 2008 (Maynard/de la Merced, New York Times, 4/24). The announcement by then-President George W. Bush persist year that the government would favor $17.4 billion in short-term loans to automakers General Motors and Chrysler, came with caveats. The companies had to appeal UAW to accept half of the their obligatory contributions to a willing employees' beneficiary association -- which provides health insurance for retired autoworkers and their spouses -- in newly issued stock, rather than cash.

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