Congress Moves Forward on Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

Since taking office in January, President Obama has made health care reform one of his top priorities. Obama is committed to passing comprehensive reform this year and has asked Congress to send him a massive overhaul of the health care system by October. Recently, the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over health care announced their plans and scheduled hearings to discuss the legislation.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee issued the "Affordable Health Choices Act" on June 9, 2009. The Senate Finance Committee, which also has jurisdiction over health care, has not released a draft proposal at this time, although it has held several hearings to discuss health care delivery system reform, coverage and financing options. Both committees agree on the need to promote disease prevention and quality of care.

Additionally, the Senate proposals would set up an "insurance exchange" in which individuals and small businesses could shop for medical plans and compare benefits and prices. In general, these proposals have bipartisan support. However, Democrats support the creation of a new government-run insurance plan. Republicans oppose a public plan, saying that it would drive private insurers out of business and lead to a government-run health care system.

Meanwhile, three House committees are working together on health care reform legislation. The House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor committees issued their discussion draft for health care reform on June 23, 2009. The proposal calls for mandatory universal coverage for individuals and businesses. Under the plan, coverage would be guaranteed regardless of medical history. Like the Senate version, the House bill also includes a new public plan that is opposed by Republicans. The "Blue Dog" conservative Democrats also oppose a public plan; however, they do support including a "trigger" that would make a public option available only as a fallback and in the absence of adequate competition and cost containment. …