Reports are suggesting that Senate and House negotiators are rallying behind a strategy that would require the House to pass the Senate health care bill alongside a reconciliation package of fixes that would improve the bill and satisfy progressive lawmakers. The reconciliation package would originate in the House and require just 51 votes to pass the Senate. Congressional aides are hoping to use the measure as a vehicle to remove the “Cornhusker Kickback” from the Senate bill, close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole, include higher subsidies, cut deeper into Medicare Advantage, and preserve the deal with labor unions to delay a tax on expensive insurance plans and increase the thresholds for the tax.
But speaking at the National Press Club today, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) reiterated that Congress has not settled on a course of action and said that it would be possible to pass a scaled-down health care reform bill. Hoyer suggested that Congress could offer a “more limited exchange,” encourage small businesses to pool risk, enact insurance reform, eliminate the insurer exemption from anti-trust laws and institute “smaller” affordability measures:
Much of the bill is an integrated whole. That is to say, to accomplish the objectives you need to both include many more people in coverage under insurance, spread the risk, bring costs down for individuals. At the same time that you affect reforms…That is an integrated whole that works as a whole. It’s more difficult when you take out individual items. However clearly an exchange could be created, a more limited exchange. There is I think broad based belief that we need to empower small businesses to come together to create larger markets, not small groups but large groups so they’ll get better prices and bring them down…There are obviously within affordability smaller things you can do, but I think there are somethings we can work together on…It is difficult to take small pieces and accomplish the objective that you want to accomplish. But it is not impossible and insurance reforms are popular…
Meanwhile, TPMDC is reporting that “House and Senate leaders will huddle today at 4 p.m., House Democratic leadership will meet at 5 p.m. and then House leadership will hold a caucus meeting with rank-and-file members at 7 p.m.” to “get a sense of where members stand after spending three days sounding out constituents.” “Nothing is certain; rank-and-file Democrats are all over the map with some members opposing comprehensive reform outright, and others resistant to passing the Senate bill and having lost faith that the Senate will be able to pass a separate bill. A House leadership aide tells TPMDC that members will be presented with “three ways forward and that’s it. And none of them are really that good.”
“The overwhelming majority of our caucus wants to pass a health care bill,” the aide told TPMDC. “They can’t make a decision yet because they are still trying to work through the parliamentary procedures that are at our disposal.”