// December 10, 2009 by wayseekerHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled her willingness Thursday to consider a health care bill without a government-run public health insurance option.
Pelosi previously has insisted the public option was necessary for House approval of a health care bill. Last month, the House passed its version of the sweeping health care measure that includes the public option.
However, Senate Democrats agreed this week on a tentative deal to drop the public option from their health care bill to ensure the measure can pass the chamber.
Under a proposed alternative, the Senate bill would permit private insurers to offer nonprofit coverage overseen by the government and expand Medicare for senior citizens to allow people as young as 55 to buy in to the program.
At her weekly news conference, Pelosi, D-California, said she wants to get the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate alternative before judging it, but she opened the door to a final bill without the public option.
"We in the House believe that the public option is the best way to keep insurance companies honest and also to increase competition," Pelosi said, adding: "If you have a better way, put it on the table."
With President Obama supporting the Senate alternative, Pelosi's openness to consider it represents a potential major step toward passage of a health care bill.
Liberal Democrats call the public option the only way to overhaul the health care system by ensuring people have access to affordable coverage and providing low-cost competition to private insurers.
Republicans and some Democrats consider the public option an unnecessary federal intrusion in health care that could lead to a government takeover of the system.
The House narrowly passed its health care bill last month, and the Senate is in the second week of debate. Democrats need all 60 votes in their caucus to overcome a Republican filibuster to pass the bill, and some senators in the Democratic caucus have rejected the public option.
Democratic sources said the Senate deal reached Tuesday night includes proposals to replace the public option by creating a not-for-profit private insurance option overseen by the Office of Personnel Management, much like the health plan for federal workers, along with the Medicare expansion.
A Democratic source with knowledge of the deal said the alternative also includes a "trigger" mechanism that would create a public option in the future if the nonprofit private alternatives fail to expand coverage effectively and bring down costs. However, the source said the trigger provision was tentative, based on whether moderates opposed to a public option would accept it.
Pelosi said he had yet to see details of the Senate plan. She listed essential elements for passing a health care bill, including making coverage more affordable for middle-class Americans, sustaining Medicare's solvency while eliminating a gap in prescription drug coverage for senior citizens, not increasing the deficit and holding insurance companies accountable.
"What I have said, as I've always said to my members, give the Senate room," Pelosi said, adding: "We will know a great deal more when the paper comes back from the Congressional Budget Office. But seeing their bill and our bill, I know one thing for sure -- we'll have a great bill when we put them together."
In particular, the idea of expanding Medicare to those 55 and older was appealing, Pelosi told reporters after the briefing.
Obama said Wednesday the Senate agreement created "a new framework that I believe will help pave the way for final passage" of what he called historic health care legislation.
"I support this effort, especially since it's aimed at increasing choice and competition and lowering cost,"
// December 08, 2009 by current89Senate Democrats reached a tentative deal on the public option Tuesday night. In exchange for dropping the contentious provision, medicare will be expanded for those of age 55+ (may start in 2011), a national insurance plan would be administered by the same federal agency that oversees the respected Federal Employees Health Benefits Program(the insurance options within that plan would be offered by private, nonprofit entities) and finally, a national public option would kick in if insurance companies did not meet certain coverage standards (aka a trigger).
In addition, there was movement towards placing tighter regulations on the insurance industry. A proposal from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) would require insurers to spend at least 90 percent of premium money on medical care, rather than on administrative costs or profits. Lastly, the agreement also includes a proposal from Rockefeller to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was set to expire in Oct. 1, 2013.
The plan has been sent to the all mighty, non-partisan, Congressional Budget Office which crunches #s and predicts a legislation's effect.
// December 02, 2009 by current89WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is paying a rare weekend visit to Capitol Hill to urge Senate Democrats forward as they work through the weekend to try to resolve their differences on his sweeping health care overhaul.
The president's planned appearance at a Senate Democratic caucus meeting Sunday afternoon answers appeals from a number of lawmakers eager for him to step in and help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finish the job in pushing forward his top domestic policy priority.
"That is what the president is supposed to do, to use his bully pulpit," said Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat. Until now, "I haven't seen much of it," Harkin said Saturday.
Obama and Reid must unite liberals and moderates in the 60-member caucus in the face of near-solid Republican opposition, even as moderates balk over abortion and a proposal for the government to sell health insurance in competition with the private market. Sixty is the precise number needed to overcome Republican stalling tactics in the 100-member Senate, so Reid doesn't have a vote to spare.
Moderate and liberal lawmakers met throughout the day Saturday to try to find a compromise on the government insurance plan, or public option, that they could all support and that could also potentially attract Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the one Republican to vote for the Democrats' health overhaul bill in committee.
A new idea being discussed was national nonprofit insurance plans that would be administered by the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the well-liked Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a key centrist Democrat, was enthusiastic about the idea, which she's proposed in different forms in the past. "I think it bodes well for being able to do what we want to do, which is to create greater choice and options in the marketplace," she said.
Someone will have to give. But despite the apparent divide, lawmakers and White House officials sounded increasingly optimistic.
"It's going really well. They're having a lot of really productive meetings," Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, told reporters in the Capitol Saturday. "It's about where it should be at this point in the legislative process."
Reid called the unusual weekend sessions as he races to finish the sweeping bill by Christmas.
// November 19, 2009 by bansheewailUS Senate Democrats unveiled a historic plan to extend health coverage to more than 30 million Americans who lack it now and set the stage for a key test vote as early as this weekend.
US President Barack Obama, who has made such an overhaul his top domestic priority, hailed the new legislation as "a critical milestone" that brought the United States "closer than ever" to a better health care system.
// November 17, 2009 by WakeUpPeople~House Health Bill has 5.4% income tax surcharge on $1M+ household incomes~
When it comes to paying for health overhaul, Americans see just one way to go: Tax the rich.
That finding from a new Associated Press poll will be welcome news for House Democrats, who proposed doing just that in their sweeping remake of the U.S. medical system, which passed earlier this month and would extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
The poll found participants sour on other ways of paying for the health overhaul that is being considered in Congress, including taxing insurers on high-value coverage packages derided by President Barack Obama and Democrats as "Cadillac plans."
That approach is being weighed in the Senate. It is one of the few proposals in any congressional legislation that analysts say would help reduce the nation's health expenditures, but it has come under fire from organized labor and has little support in the House.
Lawmakers also are looking at levying new taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers. But the only approach that got majority support in the AP poll was a tax on upper-income Americans.
The House bill would impose a 5.4 percent income tax surcharge on individuals making more than $500,000 a year and households making more than $1 million.
The poll tested views on an even more punitive taxation scheme that was under consideration earlier, when the tax would have hit people making more than $250,000 a year. Even at that level the poll showed majority support, with 57 percent in favor and 36 percent opposed.
"You know, I mean, why not? If they have that much money, it should be taxed," said Mary Pat Rondthaler, 60, of Menlo Park, Calif. "It isn't the same way that the guy making $21,000 is."
Not everyone agreed.
"They earn their money. And they shouldn't have to pay for somebody else. It doesn't seem fair," said Emerson Wilkins, 62, of Powder Springs, Ga.
The latest survey was conducted by Stanford University with the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Overall, the poll found the public split on Congress' health care plans. In response to some questions, participants said the current system needed to be changed, but they also voiced concerns about the potential impact on their own pocketbooks, preferring to push any new costs onto wealthier Americans.
more at link...
// November 16, 2009 by current89Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV.) intends to introduce health care reform legislation before the Thanksgiving recess. Mr. Reid has been rallying support for the bill in the Senate, and word is, that he only needs to secure three more votes. Those being Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
On Monday night, the majority leader met with a concerned group of progressive Senators. He assured them that he remained committed to the public option.
Mr Brown, the leader of the progressive Democrats had confidence that the holdouts would eventually vote for the bill “I don’t think in the end, anybody here in our caucus wants to be on the wrong side of history, wants to kill on a procedural motion, something as important as this...”
Mr. Reid expects the Senate to pass a health care reform bill before Christmas.
// November 06, 2009 by current89Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is considering a payroll tax hike on the wealthy to help pay for health care reform. The House passed a similar provision in its legislation, increasing the taxes of those who make $500,000 or more a year. Mr. Reid's plan may increase taxes for those making $250,000 a year.
The Majority Leader is expected to release the bill by weeks end. In addition, he expects the Senate to pass its measure by Christmas.
// November 07, 2009 by locutus [removed]Breaking news: The House is debating health care reform today and a vote should happen soon, perhaps this evening. Democrats are confident that they will achieve the necessary 218 votes to send the legislation to the Senate, and make this historic legislation a reality.
// November 05, 2009 by WakeUpPeopleHouse Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that the day’s tea party rally outside the Capitol is a sign that a “rebellion” is occurring in the United States.
Boehner, who spoke at the rally, made the comment during an online town hall being put on by the Republican National Committee.
“I do think there is a rebellion going on in this country,” Boehner said. “How else could you get 10,000 people to show up with only a few days notice?”
“What they are saying is ‘enough, is enough,’” he continued. “There are tens of thousands of Americans who have come to Washington to say they don’t want Pelosi-care.”
Boehner was a second-term congressman in 1994 when the GOP swept to power in the Republican Revolution. Comparing the current political climate with what he saw then, Boehner said that Democrats in the House and Senate are “far more liberal” now, leading to a stronger counteraction from the conservative grassroots.
“The intensity I saw leading up to 1994 wasn’t one-one-hundredth of what I’m seeing today,” he said. “When America speaks up, Washington listens. And we need your help.”
During his remarks to Thursday’s rally, Boehner rallied the crowd by cheering the “town hall rebellion” that took August against the Democratic health care plan.
“It was a simple statement by Americans that they love their country, they love our way of life, they love the things that America stands for – prosperity, liberty and freedom – and they want nothing more to hand freedom off to their kids and to their grandkids,” he said.
Holding a copy of the Constitution, Boehner implored the crowd to “join us in saying no to a government takeover of health care.”
“Join us in rejecting higher taxes and more deficits,” he continued. “Join us in defending our freedom. And join us in defeating Pelosi-care.”
// November 05, 2009 by JonRaymondOver 50,000 die every year for lack of health care and more for denial of care despite having health insurance. That's well over 100 deaths per day. 50 million (and growing) in the U.S. have no health care at all. This is why nine Lieberman constituents and members of Mobilization for Health Care Now were arrested today as they sat-in Lieberman's DC office and demanded to see him.
Five of the Lieberman Nine have been released. The other four intend to stay in jail until Lieberman meets with them to discuss rejecting the money he accepts from insurance companies!
Meanwhile ABC News reports: "Later we will see much a larger protest from the other side of the political spectrum as potentially thousands of protesters gather with Republican lawmakers on the West side of the Capitol. Those protesters will lobby against Democrats' health care bills in large part because they include a public option.."
Congress is getting it from all sides. Their compromises with the insurance industry infuriate progressives and as weak as what's left of a public option is, the right are protesting it's inclusion. You can't please everyone so you may as well have a single payer system, medicare for all, problem solved, which is what is buzzing about as we hear that Pelosi is allowing a vote on the Weiner amendment for a single payer system!
Huff post reports the following:
Nine protesters were arrested Thursday in a demonstration at the office of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to demand that he pledge to stop accepting from the health insurance industry.
Lieberman, who last week said he would join a GOP filibuster of any health care bill with a government-run public option, has accepted about $1.5 million from health professionals and insurance agencies since 2003, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Twenty protesters, including four students from the University of Connecticut, marched into the senator's office in the morning and demanded to speak with him. Aides denied their request, offering constituents a closed-door meeting with two legislative aides, which was rejected. Nine protesters then staged a sit-in, saying they would not leave the office until they could have a discussion with the senator in person.
"We're waiting to see if the senator for Aetna is ready to be the senator for the people," explained one protester, Kai, who wouldn't give his last name. Aetna has spent over two million dollars on lobbying in 2009, and has donated $65,000 to Lieberman's campaign committee.
Within 10 minutes of the protesters' arrival, Capitol police were on the scene. They dragged away nine protesters, including two of Lieberman's Connecticut constituents, as Senate staffers watched from the lobby and office hallways.
After the arrests, five of the remaining protesters continued on to Lieberman's committee hearing, which was already underway. They stood in the back of the chamber and quietly held up signs reading "Patients Not Profits" and "Insurance $$$ Makes Me Sick."
"It's ironic Lieberman is chairing this meeting on corporate crimes," said Medea Benjamin, who characterized the practice of accepting campaign donations from health insurance companies as criminal.
Mobilization for Health care has a petition to sign urging Lieberman to "publicly pledge that he will no longer accept any money from any insurance companies." (http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1312/t/10007/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=2159)
Over 2000 signed this petition within just a few hours of this story breaking.
// November 05, 2009 by WakeUpPeopleIn a conference call Wednesday night with bloggers and activists for the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) called on protesters to “scare” members of Congress into killing the proposed health care reform bill.
If the protesters succeed in scaring lawmakers, Bachmann said that it could cripple efforts to restructure health care for a decade.
“Nothing scares members of Congress more than freedom-loving Americans,” Bachmann said.
She said that members were frightened by the August town hall meetings, but “then they came back to Washington, and they got back in the bubble and Speaker Pelosi put the hammer down on the Democrats.”
Bachmann said that last week, as it appeared a House bill could pass, “I was near despair.”
Last Thursday, she said that in desperation at the prospect of health care legislation passing, she happened upon the idea of a spontaneous meet-up of opponents of the bill on the steps of the Capitol.
Republican organizers are planning for activists to go into the House office buildings and the U.S. Capitol and confront members directly after a press conference at noon.
“Don’t bring your pitchforks,” Bachmann said, “bring your video cameras.”
Bachmann expressed confidence that such efforts would stultify the Democrats’ efforts.
“I think that will absolutely scare these members of Congress so much that Pelosi will not get the votes and it will kill the bill. I think it could be dead for 10 years. Why won’t we? Why won’t we go for broke?”
Last Thursday, Bachmann said she appealed to Republicans but “the conference didn’t pick it up.” The following day, she decided to take matters in her own hands and made her plea directly to Fox News viewers on Sean Hannity’s program. On Saturday, Bachmann said she received a call from actor Jon Voight who offered to join her in Washington, followed by a similar call from conservative talk-show host Mark Levin.
Bachmann reasserted a claim that Pelosi was considering tightening security in preparation for the activists, which she warned "would be a huge mistake."
"What's scary is that Rep. Bachmann will go to any length to protect the profits and abusive tactics of the insurance industry by working against meaningful health reform," said Kristie Greco, communications director for House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
“You can turn the anger on her,” Bachmann said. “It is not Michele Bachmann’s fault” if the activists are angry tomorrow – “it is Speaker Pelosi’s.”
Bachmann declined to answer a question on the conference call about the news that her chief of staff, Michelle Marston, was resigning.
// November 04, 2009 by current89According to the Associated Press, AARP - the senior citizens' lobby - will endorse the House Democrats' health insurance reform bill. AARP has roughly 40 million members. The endorsement is a big plus for the Obama administration; many seniors had been wary of the bill for it cuts medicare funding that is considered wasteful.
Though Republicans haven't given an official statement, Rep. Dave Reichert, said (R-Wash) "There is an unusual advocate for these massive cuts to seniors' health care."
UPDATE: After settling their differences, House Democrats have revealed new revisions to the bill.
The AP reports that under the revised bill "insurance companies would have to publicly disclose the justification for premium increases before they go into effect. The federal Health and Human Services department would monitor patterns of premium increases, and could take action if the price hikes are out of line. The bill would also provide $1 billion to state insurance commissioners, allowing them to ramp up their own monitoring and enforcement."