Some news outlets looked beyond the Senate Finance Committee's consideration of a health overhaul bill this week.
"Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said his committee will convene
again Tuesday. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the only committee
Republican who might cross sides to vote for the health bill, remained
on the fence late last week. 'Obviously, there's some things that
require significant improvement, for example, on the individual
mandate,' Snowe said. 'I'm going to review the document and all that's
been added and modified and go from there.' Snowe and Senate Democratic
Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer of New York were instrumental
in making changes last week to Finance's proposal that will make health
insurance more affordable."
"While most of the work so far has
fallen to committees and party leaders, the wait for the bills to get
to the floor provides a window for President Obama to play a bigger
role in the debate, some lawmakers said. 'The role of the president to
this point in time has been more to steer the boat, not as much to row
the boat,' Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., said last week. 'I think going
forward the administration needs to do a little more rowing'" (Edney
and Hunt, 10/5).
The New York Times:
"Party leaders still face immense political and policy challenges as
they combine rival proposals — two bills in the Senate and three in the
House. But the broad contours of the legislation are in place: millions
of uninsured Americans would get subsidized health benefits, and the
government would move to slow the growth of health spending. Senior
Democrats said they were increasingly confident that a bill would pass
this year. 'I am Scandinavian, and we don’t like to overstate
anything,' said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and an
architect of the Finance Committee bill. 'But I have a solid feeling
about the direction of events.' Step by difficult step, the legislative
process is lurching forward."
The Times notes that there are
"huge issues" remaining, including the requirement that most Americans
have insurance, whether "the government should require employers to
provide health benefits," how to pay for the legislation, whether to
create a government-run insurance option, ways "to provide more
generous subsidies to help low- and middle-income people buy insurance"
and whether the final bill will control costs (Pear and Herszenhorn,
reports from the Sunday talk shows: "The healthcare reform bill
apparently poised to clear the Senate Finance Committee would raise
taxes on families making less than $250,000 and thereby violate
President Obama’s campaign promise to protect middle-income Americans
from tax increases, asserted Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Committee
Democrats last week cleared the way for the healthcare reform
bill ... partly by beating back GOP amendments,
including one from Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to bar middle-income tax
increases. But Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who also sits on the panel
appeared with Cornyn on 'This Week,' said Crapo’s amendment defined
taxes so broadly, it could apply to 'just about anything,' and was
merely an effort to score political points" (Vogel, 10/4).
Meanwhile, The Hill
reports that "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow House Democratic
leaders next week are expected to wade into the treacherous waters of
how to pay for the House healthcare bill as they continue to negotiate
the shape of the bill behind closed doors."
The most public
debate is about the 'public option,' as Pelosi tries to mediate a
burgeoning feud between liberals and centrist Blue Dog Democrats about
what form the government-run plan should take in the legislation. But
the tax question could be even more divisive within the Democratic
Caucus, pitting union allies against business-minded centrists who
believe that a tax-the-rich strategy will backfire by hitting small
business. Pelosi appears to have sparked a revolt among unions and a
significant portion of the Democratic Caucus by suggesting last month
after one of those closed-door meetings that she might be open to
raising taxes on so-called 'Cadillac' insurance plans" (Soraghan, 10/3).
The Washington Post:
Any health-care overhaul that Congress and President Obama enact is
likely to have as its centerpiece a fundamental reform: Insurers would
not be allowed to reject individuals or charge them higher premiums
based on their medical history. But simply banning medical
discrimination would not necessarily remove it from the equation,
economists and health-care analysts say. ... Cognizant of the threat,
lawmakers are trying to neutralize it. For example, the bill advanced
by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) calls for
creation of complex mechanisms to essentially raise or lower
compensation to insurers, depending on whether they attract
disproportionately sick or healthy populations."
assumes the problem would be greatest during the first few years; after
that, part of the machinery to compensate for variations would go away"