Even While Considering Major Overhaul, Democrats Expand Government Role In Public Health

"As if hedging their bets on health reform, Democrats are emphasizing smaller but still significant health-related investments this year, from food safety and community health centers to a greater emphasis on rooting out abuses in Medicare and Medicaid," Politico reports. "It's a far cry from the more ambitious government-backed insurance option proposed by President Barack Obama and House Democrats. But it does add up to a major expansion of the government's role in public health — and one that shows a greater willingness to add personnel to regulate and administer programs."

Those initiatives "make for a delicate balancing act." They could be "a backstop if health reform falls," while also seeking "to clear the path for bigger things to come." Bills to expand Medicaid and regulate tobacco earlier this year garnered attention, "but it's the lower-profile annual appropriations bills, which have cleared the House and are now moving through the Senate, that add important details — and dollars." Politico gives a number of examples (Rogers, 8/5).

Meanwhile, "after days of negotiations and hours upon hours of committee votes, the House healthcare bill comes back to what is essentially a committee of one: Speaker Nancy Pelosi," The Hill reports. "It's up to her, working with fellow leaders and the House Rules Committee, to meld three drafts of the healthcare bill: the liberal version from the Education and Labor Committee, the centrist Blue Dog compromise from the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means plan with a tax Pelosi (D-Calif.) already wants to change or maybe even scrap." With Republicans "promising a solid wall of opposition," Pelosi must "draft a bill that can get 218 Democratic votes, the majority in the House" (Soraghan and Allen, 8/4).

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