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House Dems' Next Step In Health Reform: Repeal Of Insurance Antitrust Exemption

Lawmakers "hoping to revive President Barack Obama's stalled health care overhaul have started writing a compromise bill, but it's unclear when the legislation will be ready for votes, a top House Democrat said Tuesday, " The Associated Press reports. "The measure would change the massive Senate-approved health bill to what bargainers from the White House, Senate and House agreed to last month, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said in a brief interview. ... The measure Rangel discussed would be a so-called reconciliation bill, a seldom-used procedure that only requires a simple majority of votes for Senate passage" (Fram, 2/2). In the meantime, "House Democratic leaders plan to bring to the floor next week a bill to repeal the exemption insurance companies have to antitrust laws, " says CongressDaily, adding: "That bill would kick off what Speaker Pelosi has said could be a series of smaller, free-standing pieces of health insurance-related legislation taken up as House and Senate Democratic leaders continue to work toward a solution to passing a comprehensive measure" (Edney and House, 2/3).

Democratic Leaders Increasingly Focused On Reconciliation Strategy To Advance Health Reform Legislation

Democratic congressional negotiators and White House senior officials met Tuesday but failed to reach a final agreement on how to move health reform legislation forward, CQ Today reports (Armstrong/Wayne [1], CQ Today, 2/2). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, "We had a discussion and we have a number of options, " but added, "We don't have anything finalized yet" (O'Connor/Budoff Brown, Politico, 2/3). He said, "We hope to be in a position in the near future -- don't put me down as to days or number of weeks -- to move forward on health care, " adding, "We plan to do it this year and to do it as quickly as we can" (Armstrong/Wayne [1], CQ Today, 2/2).

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Today's Opinions And Editorials

Reconciliation Is Not Representative Politico To reform health care, we must proceed carefully, deliberately and cooperatively; we must listen to all sides so that we can replace practices that result in waste and inefficiency with more affordable and effective solutions. Reconciliation is not the right path to achieve this goal (Judd Gregg, 2/4). The President's Budget And Health Care Reform Kaiser Health News President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress continue to insist that the push for health care reform is far from over. But the release of the president's budget for fiscal year 2011 marks another turning point in the debate (James Capretta, 2/4).

Obama Calls On Senate Dems To 'Finish The Job' On Health Reform

President Obama at a Senate Democratic Conference meeting on Wednesday told lawmakers to "finish the job" on health reform, despite increased criticism around the stalled initiative, The Hill 's "Blog Briefing Room" reports. The president acknowledged that many Senate Democrats have unhappy constituents and thus are facing a tough election year, but "as we think about moving forward, I hope we don't lose sight about why we're here, " he said (Fabian/Romm, "Blog Briefing Room, " The Hill, 2/3). Obama told lawmakers that if they pass health reform and other initiatives, such as financial regulatory reform, "I'm confident that politics in 2010 will take care of themselves" (Zeleny, New York Times, 2/4).

House To Move Forward To End Antitrust Exemption For Health Insurers

"House Democratic leaders are moving forward with Plan B for passing health care reform by introducing a stand-alone measure to strip the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies - a popular piece of their stalled health care reform package, " Roll Call reports. "Freshmen Reps. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) and Betsy Markey (D-Colo.) will file legislation on Friday aimed at barring the insurance industry from fixing prices and setting their own markets without being investigated. The bill ... is the first in what is expected to be a series of health-care-related measures that reflect the piecemeal approach House Democratic leaders are now taking to moving the overhaul" (Bendery, 2/3).

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KHN Column: The President's Budget And Health Care Reform

In his latest Kaiser Health News column, James Capretta writes: "President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress continue to insist that the push for health care reform is far from over. But the release of the president's budget for fiscal year 2011 marks another turning point in the debate, one that means the climb toward passage of the bill - or any bill for that matter - has only gotten steeper" (1/4). Read entire column. 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.

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