Health Care Reform Moves into High Gear

Article excerpt

The effort to reform the nation's health care system--an effort that NLC supports--has moved into high gear as Congress and the Administration focus increasingly on passing legislation before a self-imposed October 15 deadline. What once appeared to be a faint hope on the horizon, appears likely to be enacted by this Congress bating some shift in public opinion or the re-emergence of the type of partisanship that would result in a major legislative log jam.

President Obama has been holding meetings with influential Senate Democrats to discuss their plans and has been urging them to move forward with a plan that provides all Americans access to quality health care that is affordable and accessible.

The President's Council of Economic Advisers--to underscore the impact that health care reform will have on the economy--issued a report that argued dramatically for reforming health care. The report showed that if nothing is done to reign in the costs of health care or rationalize the system, health care costs would increase from its current level of 18 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 34 percent in just 30 years. The report also showed that if the rate of growth could be reduced from 6 percent to 4.5 percent per year--something the economic advisors believe is achievable through health care reform as many as 500,000 jobs per year would be created and family incomes would increase by $2,600 over the next 10 years.

The Senate has been releasing documents designed to spur discussion and legislative results, and the House is expected to introduce its version of health care reform legislation in the next two weeks, followed by hearings, committee mark-ups and passage before it begins its summer recess.

The Senate has indicated that it anticipates following a similar schedule that will result in both chambers conferring on their versions of the bill in September and passing a bill the President can sign by the end of the month. Both chambers seem anxious to avoid the kind of partisan wrangling that might result in the use of the option known as reconciliation where a simple majority can pass Senate legislation.

Six major health care organizations last week followed up on a commitment they made last month to President Obama to trim $2 trillion in health care costs over 10 years. The groups, representing doctors, hospitals, drug companies and a labor union, proposed eliminating unnecessary medical tests and procedures, slashing red tape and better managing chronic diseases. …