House Leaders Work To Bring Health Bill Below $900 Billion

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says House Democrats have a plan to get the cost of their health bill below $900 billion over 10 years, the amount requested by President Barack Obama.

"Leaders and committee chairmen met Tuesday to discuss their options for shaving $200 billion from their proposals, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) affirmed in an afternoon press conference that her team has a plan for reaching its goal," Roll Call reports. "But the lawmakers broke without making final decisions and are expected to resume the discussion after receiving new estimates on the proposed cuts." As House leaders try to blend three different committee versions of the health bill, costs remain a major conundrum, "since a proposed surcharge on the rich has raised the hackles of freshmen and others in wealthy districts. One potential source of extra revenue is the pharmaceutical industry" (Newmyer, 9/30).

The Wall Street Journal: "A senior House Democrat said Tuesday that a tax on high-cost insurance plans is 'not a preferred option' to keep a health-care overhaul bill from adding to the deficit. But the tax on so-called 'Cadillac plans' is still among revenue sources being considered by House leaders, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told reporters" (Vaughan, 9/29).

Congress Daily:  "But they didn't offer specifics, and members are loath to cut one of the main costs of the bill: subsidies that will help low- and middle-income families buy insurance. ... Leaders are wrangling over how to structure a public insurance option, with liberal members preferring to base the plan on Medicare rates. That would reduce the bill's cost but could alienate moderates" (Hunt and House, 9/30).

ABC News: Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, "said… that House leaders may be open to sacrificing some of the savings that would be available through a public option to address concerns that such an entity would drive private insurers out of business. 'You could have a public option that has negotiated rates, instead of rates tied to Medicare," said Andrews. 'The version of the public option that saves the Treasury and the taxpayers the most money ties the public option to Medicare rates. There's a less-savings version of it that would have negotiated rates -- that might be one compromise'" (Klein, 9/29).

Roll Call, in a second story: "House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is trying to sit down with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) this week to discuss 'areas of agreement' in a health care overhaul. Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said Tuesday the House Republican No. 2 is seeking the huddle after Hoyer indicated last week that he wanted to meet but didn’t follow up with an invitation" (Newmyer, 9/29).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.