Health Care Reform: Artificial Deadline Number 13

In his Health Care Reform address yesterday afternoon, President Obama directed Congress “…to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks.”  They had better get cracking…

The Democratic timeline, according to The Republic: “The House takes up the Senate bill and passes it by March 19. A few days later it passes a reconciliation bill and sends it over to the Senate, which starts the voting process on March 26.” March 26th is the day that Congress is scheduled to break for Easter.

President Obama has been widely reported as telling Republicans that he is willing to consider ideas suggested at the summit but so far, there is no new written legislation incorporating these ideas:

1) Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) suggestion regarding undercover Medicare investigators to root out fraud.
2) An appropriation of $50 million to states to creatively tackle medical-malpractice disputes.
3) An increase in reimbursements for doctors who accept Medicaid.
4) New language in the bill in support of health savings accounts.

The New York Times adds an interesting point on the timing….

“But Mr. Obama has not said anything about the drafting of legislative language that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office needs to provide a new cost analysis of the legislation. It could take the budget office two weeks just to produce the revised cost analysis. Only then will Democrats know if they need to make any further adjustments, and whether they will be able to generate the votes to pass a bill.”

I would ignore talk about timelines for the moment; there really is much for Congress to do. They have their work cut out for them if they truly are going to get to a vote “…in the next few weeks”.

Someone, PLEASE send the President’s cell phone number so we can tell him these artificial deadlines just don’t work!

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Filed under Health Care Reform, HSA

East Room Address This Afternoon

President Obama will be giving an address this afternoon on how to move health care reform forward. Some of his remarks are already appearing online, at The New York Times, and msnbc.com.

Pundits are betting that this will be the beginning of the final push for health care reform, and (per Politico) the final push involves reconciliation.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE:

As expected, the President has called for an up or down vote on Health Care Reform. No timetable yet, but he stated, “I have therefore asked leaders in both of houses of Congress to finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks. “

The full text is available at cbsnews.com.

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Senate Passes, President Signs, One Month Unemployment Benefits Extension

The bill, held up this week in the Senate, passed the Senate last night and was signed by the President.

The COBRA Premium Subsidy extension is included in the bill.  The measure is seen as a short-term fix, allowing lawmakers time to debate a longer extension to the programs.

Stay tuned!

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Filed under COBRA, Legislative Updates

Cobra Premium Subsidy Extension Stalled in Senate

The COBRA Subsidy Extension that passed in the House last week was held up in the Senate. Without the extension, the Cobra premium subsidy will no longer be available to anyone involuntarily terminated on or after March 1.

The Hill reports that the Senate are still looking to pass a short term extension, but that Democrats may face a fight to pass a further extension to the end of December 2010.

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With Due Respect to Sergio Leone, The Good the Bad and the Ugly from Yesterday’s Health Care Summit:

The Good
The fact that yesterday’s Health Care Summit happened at all, with both parties in attendance and (mostly) on their best behavior. If nothing else, both parties aired their positions in public, on television and radio, and gave the public two very distinct views of reform.

The Bad
That neither side appeared to offer any new ideas… both sides doggedly stuck to their talking points:  “Start over” vs “We have solutions already”.  Republicans postured for their base, while Democrats pandered to theirs.  Not enough was heard from the attendees and the President did more than his share of talking.

The Ugly
There should be no surprise the summit ended with no new bipartisan agreement. The cynical view – much in evidence in today’s reporting – is that the whole event was carefully designed by the White House to underscore the perception that the Republican Party is obstructing reform…leaving the Democrats “no choice” but to use reconciliation to move forward.

Two of the speakers did impress me:

Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma. Senator Coburn centered his comments on cost issues. He brought up the fact that 33 percent of the cost of health care simply shouldn’t be there. Part of this is due to inefficiencies in the current system, including unnecessary testing, but mostly to fraud. Reduce the fraud, bring down costs, and then let’s move on to working on prevention…WE AGREE. 

Rep Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee. One of the Blue Dog Coalition, he is considered a bit of a loose cannon by some, but I was impressed by his sincerity, and his very sober assessment of our situation.  Do not delay action; tackling the problems provides solutions, endless debate does not. WE AGREE.

Where is Clint Eastwood when we need him most?

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Filed under Health Care Reform, Health Care Spending

The Health Care Summit…

Republicans and Democrats are converging on Blair House for President Obama’s Health Care Summit, which starts this morning at 10:00.

You can follow the events as they happen at C-Span, or follow events through any number of sources…

Newt Gingrich’s Center will host the “American People’s Online Health Summit.” The live blog starts at 10 a.m. EST. 

For alternate views, you can check out the Huffington Post or Politico

The Washington Post and the New York Times will also be providing coverage throughout the day.

We’ll be watching as well, and look forward to hearing your comments as events unfold…

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Filed under Health Care Reform, Legislative Updates

Extending the COBRA Premium Subsidy Extension (No, it’s not inadvertently redundant.)

The original COBRA premium subsidy extension, passed in December 2009, extended the original eligibility period for involuntarily termed employees. The original cutoff date, December 31, 2009, moved to February 28, 2010.

With February 28th  just four days away, a NEW extension for COBRA premium subsidy eligibility has not yet been passed.  In fact, reference to such an extension was actually stripped from the jobs bill passed by the Senate today.  

However, the AP reports that with the jobs bill now on its way to the House, Harry Reid now wants to extend the COBRA extension  (as well as unemployment benefits) before February 28th. 

Reid is reported to be considering a two step process:

     1) An initial 30 day extension.
     2) A follow on,  longer term extension, possibly to the end of December.

Another scenario, of course, is “no further extension”…an unlikely outcome, in our view.

We will keep you informed …

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Filed under COBRA, Health Care Reform, Health Plans, Legislative Updates