Healthcare industry tells Congress members to leave their ideologies at home
According to the “Healthcare Leadership Conference” — a consortium of insurance companies, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical and medical device firms — fixing the U.S. healthcare system will require a bi-partisan agreement that avoids ideological bugbears and has broad appeal to the American people.
In a letter to Congressional leaders, the group wrote, “Action that affects the well-being of every American and one-sixth of the nation’s economy should involve vigorous debate and deliberation, ultimately leading to a measure that has broad, bipartisan support.”
That means, natch, ditching proposals for the single-payer option favored by some of the more liberal among us:
“Progress toward genuine, necessary reforms should not be impeded by politically-divisive issues such as the proposed creation of a new government-run health insurance program.”
Senate committee passes reform bill
A program strikingly similar to that is contained in a bill a Senate committee committee approved today, according to the Wall Street Journal:
“The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill would create a controversial government-run health insurance plan and require employers to provide health coverage for workers or face stiff financial penalties. The bill has gotten heavy criticism from business groups and Republicans, who say it would come at too high a cost to taxpayers and the private sector.”
But the more conservative among us needn’t be too worried; the committee’s 13-10 vote was split along party lines and the bill’s prospects for ever making it to the Senate floor are murky, at best, the Journal reports.
Senate Dems plan to integrate the $600 billion bill into another measure being hashed out by the finance committee, which could be inclined to ditch the government-plan provision to sweeten the deal for moderate senators of both parties.
And we can all relax for the rest of then summer, anyway, as the enormity and complexity of the politicking over the reforms make it likely that anything will get done before the the month-long recess in August.
For his part, President Barack Obama praised the Senate health committee measure but said reform can no longer be postponed, The Associated Press reported.
“‘This progress should make us hopeful, but it can’t make us complacent,'” Obama said. ‘It should instead provide the urgency for both the House and the Senate to finish their critical work on health reform before the August recess. … It’s time for us to buck up Congress, this administration, the entire federal government to be clear that we’ve got to get this done.”
The Senate bill (House Dems are shooting to get their version out before the August break) would create a government plan that provides financial assistance to people making up to four times the pverty level (about $88,000 for a family of four, according to the news service).
It would also add 21 million people to the insurance rolls, costing $611.4 billion over 10 years, and institute a $750-per-year-per-worker fee for employers with 25 or more workers that don’t offer health insurance.
More Massachusetts backlash
The problems with providing near-universal healthcare coverage are front-and-centerin the Bay State, where Boston Medical Center filed suit against the state over its Medicaid funding.
The non-profit hospital, which sees many low-income patients, accused the Commonwealth of illegally cutting its Medicaid payments to finance the universal health insurance program, The Boston Globe reported.
BMC, which treats half the city’s trauma cases, said half of its patients earn less than $20,000 annually, 30 percent do not speak English and a third are on Medicaid. It’s forecasting a $175 million, 18 percent loss for the coming fiscal year and expects to post its first loss ($38 million) in five years at the end of fiscal 2009.
The hospital is blaming the shortfall on a reduction in the state’s per-patient Medicaid payments, which were cut from $12,476 last year to $9,323.