The ongoing Senate battle over inclusion of medical savings accounts in health insurance reform legislation prevented House and Senate leaders from meeting last week to reconcile their differing bills.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the chief Democratic sponsor of a health insurance reform measure that passed the Senate last month, used procedural maneuvers last week to block Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) from appointing Senate negotiators.
Kennedy contended that Dole was trying to load the Senate delegation with supporters of MSAs. Such tax-favored accounts allow consumers to draw money to pay for all healthcare services less than the deductible of a catastrophic health insurance policy.
Dole should not tilt the Senate negotiating team in favor of MSAs, Kennedy argued, because the Senate voted against adding an MSA measure to the insurance bill Kennedy sponsored with Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.). The House-passed version of the legislation includes an MSA provision.
Republicans were readying new proposals for Kennedy last week. But Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said if Kennedy rejects those offers, Senate Republicans will go ahead and vote for Dole's appointments to the negotiating team over Kennedy's procedural maneuvers.
House Republican leaders said they won't appoint their delegation until the Senate has.