Details are coming closer to the surface as legislative proposals are poised to be introduced. Senator Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee released an unofficial summary of a healthcare reform bill and a mark-up schedule. According to the summary, as reported by the Washington Post, the bill would contain: a public plan option; individual and employer mandates; state or federally run insurance exchanges; a federal health board; and Medicaid income eligibility threshold increases to 500% of the federal poverty level. The bill is expected to be introduced on June 8, with hearings to follow in that week to be followed by Committee mark-up taking place between June 16 and June 25, as reported by The Hill. The Senate Finance Committee is also planning to release a bill this month. Majority Leader Harry Reid has set aside two weeks of floor debate time right before the August recess that is scheduled to begin on August 7. Senator Reid is on record that Senate Democrats may trigger the reconciliation process (simple majority vote) if consensus is not reached on a healthcare reform bill through the regular process.
On the Republican side of the aisle, Politico reports that Senator Gregg has put forward a health reform proposal that would require everyone to obtain health coverage and provide government-sponsored insurance for US families with incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level, with premiums based on a sliding scale. State-based insurance exchanges would be established to help people purchase federally approved insurance policies, and funding would be achieved by capping tax deductions for employer coverage at $5,000 for individuals and $11,500 for families. A different Politico article notes that Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Camp is working on a bill that would not change the tax-exempt status of employer insurance, and that additional proposals are being developed by the Congressional Health Care Caucus under the leadership of Representatives Burgess and Blunt.
On the health industry side, the six organizations that previously had pledged support for health savings proposals (the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Service Employees International Union) released a 28-page detailed document that sets out proposals to reduce health care spending by between $1 trillion and $1.73 trillion over 10 years, as reported by The Hill , Politico , and the Wall Street Journal . Recommendations include: spurring the use of health information technology; promoting the use of comparative effectiveness research; improving chronic disease management; reducing unnecessary utilization; avoiding duplicate and unnecessary treatments; and streamlining administrative functions by standardizing claim submissions, eligibility, claims status, payments, and remittance forms.