Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekend update / Miscellany

On Friday, the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee both approved the House health care reform bill, HR 3200. Business Insurance reports that "the Education and Labor bill was narrowly approved on a 26-22 vote, while the Ways and Means measure passed on a 23-18 vote. Three Democrats on each committee joined Republicans in voting against the legislation, H.R. 3200, which seeks to greatly reduce the number of uninsured." One more House Committee, Energy and Commerce, must clear the bill before the Rules Committee can create a rule consolidating the various versions and setting the bill for floor consideration.

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that "House Democratic legislation overhauling the nation's health care system would add more than $230 billion to the federal budget deficit over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper of legislation on Capitol Hill." This article was very enlightening to me because it explained why the American Medical Association came out in support of the House bill last week:
The gap in the legislation is largely attributed to provisions of the bill that eliminate steep cuts – planned under current law – in Medicare payments to doctors, congressional aides said. The provision was among the reasons the American Medical Association, the influential physicians group, endorsed the bill this week.
The article also points out that the CBO report and CBO Director Elmendorf's testimony last week has caused activity to slow at the Energy and Commerce Committee which has a large contingent of Blue Dog Democrats and at the Senate Finance Committee, where Chairman Max Baucus is trying to craft a bipartisan measure.

An article in the online Wall Street Journal which will be published tomorow explains that
In the Senate, where Democratic leaders hope to pass legislation overhauling the nation's health-insurance system by the end of the month, a group of centrist Republicans and Democrats issued a plea for delay Friday. "There is much heavy lifting ahead," the six-member group, which includes Sens. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) and Olympia Snowe (R., Maine), said in a letter delivered to Senate leaders. "While we are committed to providing relief for American families as quickly as possible, we believe taking additional time to achieve a bipartisan result is critical."
The article also notes that the Blue Dog Democrats are concerned about voting on the House bill with its large tax increases before the Senate Finance Committee bill is unveiled.

The New York Times reported on the concerns that many Governors are expressing about the unfunded cost of the massive expansion of Medicaid that the House bill and the Senate HELP bill would create. "The role of the states in a restructured health care system dominated the summer meeting of the National Governors Association here this weekend — with bipartisan animosity voiced against the plan during a closed-door luncheon on Saturday and in a private meeting on Sunday with the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius."

Enacting healthcare reform before the August recess, as urged by the President, "'would be analogous to a hail Mary pass in a football game,' Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report told ABC News. 'It increasingly looks virtually impossible.'"

On the FEHBP front,
  • The House on Thursday approved the FY 2010 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill (H.R. 3170) which funds the FEHBP. The bill would allow federal employees a 2% raise as proposed by the President, according to a Federal Times report.

  • reports that
    Four unions representing the nation's postal workers are pleading for a meeting with the White House to address possible funding shortfalls for workers' payroll and retiree health benefits, according to a letter obtained by CongressDaily.
    The presidents of the American Postal Workers Union, National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, National Association of Letter Carriers and National Postal Mailhandlers Union co-signed the Tuesday letter to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, warning that the U.S. Postal Service is at risk of defaulting on a $5.4 billion payment to prefund retiree health benefits at the end of September.
    According to the article, while the Postal Service is working with OMB and OPM to provide the necessary funding, the Unions want the White House to support a bill that will allow the Postal Service to tap the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. "We believe that the Obama administration must intervene now to avoid both a political and economic train wreck," the Union Presidents wrote.

  • On July 16, The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the President's nomination of Christine Griffin to be OPM Deputy Director. reports that "Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed strong support for" Ms. Griffin. The next step for Ms. Griffin is a Committee vote.

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