GOP Slams House Health Bill, Dems Face Hurdles Before Floor Votes

The political parties lined up for a weekend of political rhetoric, with Republicans slamming the House health reform bill as Democrats get ready to move the bills to the floor in the House and the Senate.

The Hill: "House Democrats' recently unveiled healthcare bill is little more than '1,990 pages of bureaucracy' that will inevitably 'raise the cost of Americans' health insurance premiums,' the House's top Republican stressed in this week's radio address. The country's healthcare system would be better served by the GOP's proposed solutions, which permit families to purchase insurance across state lines, empower states to innovate and close holes in medical lawsuit rules, added House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio)" (Romm, 10/31).

The Associated Press: "Taking aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan, Boehner said it would put Washington in charge of health care decisions, add to the bureaucracy, raise premiums and cut Medicare benefits. 'Enough is enough. Breaking the bank and taking away the freedoms Americans cherish is not the answer to the challenges we face,' Boehner said."

"Debate could begin this coming week on legislation developed by House Democrats that extends coverage to 96 percent of Americans, imposes new requirements on individuals and employers to get insurance and provides subsidies for lower-income people. The bill rolled out Thursday includes a new public insurance plan that would pay providers and hospitals at rates negotiated by the health and human services secretary" (Lester, 10/31).

McClatchy/Miami Herald: "The House of Representatives could begin consideration of its plan, whose net cost is an estimated $894 billion, late next week. The Senate is also expected to begin debate soon. Its timetable is uncertain since it takes 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles, and there are questions whether Democratic leaders have enough strength yet to go forward. This much is clear: Democratic leaders, with the strong backing of President Barack Obama, will put their muscle squarely behind the creation of a new government-run health care system, or public option."

"There are many similarities between what House and Senate Democratic leaders are pushing. Most people would have to obtain coverage and could use a new 'exchange,' or marketplace, to compare rates and benefits. Lower-income consumers would get government help. Reimbursement rates for doctors, hospitals and other health care providers would be negotiated by the government, a key concession to lawmakers in rural states. Leaders had wanted rates tied to Medicare fees. Even agreeing to those points is a significant milestone, one virtually unmatched in the tortured history of health care politics" (Lightman, 10/30).

Politico: "For days, Republicans believed they were making headway by ripping Majority Leader Harry Reid for negotiating the health care bill in private. But when Reid announced Monday that he planned to include a public insurance option in the bill, it instantly changed the complexion of the debate – even though the meat of the bill is still being negotiated, tweaked and drafted in private and in the powerful Democrat’s auspices."

"Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of Democratic leadership, said there are still major issues unresolved, like the employer mandate, taxes, and a long-term care program for the elderly. ... But Democrats have succeeded in changing the terms of the debate, redirecting focus to the merits of a public option, and attempting to create a sense of momentum that the bill is moving forward – rather than stuck in complex and secretive negotiations" (Raju, 10/30).

Salt Lake Tribune: "Utah Rep. Jim Matheson predicts Congress ultimately will pass a major health-reform bill, the question is whether he will support it. Matheson, Utah's lone Democrat in Congress, voted against his party's reform package when it came before the Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this year. ... While Matheson expresses skepticism about the House bill, he is quick to praise the Senate measure, which is cheaper and includes more provisions meant to lower long-term growth in health-related spending."

"He joined three other leaders of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition in sending a letter to the Congressional Budget Office late Thursday asking for additional information to determine how the House reform bill would affect health-care inflation and the national debt" (Canham, 10/30).

ABC News: "In many ways, the bill is a $1 trillion compromise. But you'd never know it listening to Pelosi, who kept a fixed smile while allowing ABC cameras to follow her momentous day. 'It is a day that is really historic for us, and it is really crossing a threshold,' she said."

"It does not contain what she hoped would be a 'robust' public option -- a government-run insurance plan paying rates similar to Medicare's. ... (she said) 'we never represent it to anyone that we would get the more robust [option] and that that would prevail at the end of the day. We just wanted to go to the table as strong as possible'" (Weir, 10/31).


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