Cost Concerns Slow Health Reform on Capitol Hill
It appears that all systems may be slow this week—and maybe this month—in pushing healthcare legislation through congressional committees.
Initially, a draft bill was expected from the Senate Finance Committee by yesterday. However, shadowed by questions over costs raised this week by the Congressional Budget Office and the finer points of the legislation, the Finance Committee has postponed marking up legislation until after the July 4 recess.
CBO had estimated on Tuesday that the costs of reform legislation may be closer to $1.6 trillion; panel chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), is pushing for the final price tag to be around $1 trillion.
Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is also working on healthcare legislation, began its long review of amendments--with a less than bipartisan spirit. The goal was that the committee would finish its work and approve a bill by June 26. However, it may take longer than that—if yesterday is any indication.
Republicans seemed to be stepping up their resistance to the bill—criticizing Democrats for providing adequate time for reviewing the proposals related to creating insurance programs and restructuring the way providers are paid. "I hope we don't become victims of a deadline," said Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), the ranking minority member on the panel.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said it appeared that the committee was beginning a "partisan exercise on perhaps the most important legislation of our lives."
Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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