The president's sweeping proposal, released Monday, tracks closely with the Senate's already-passed bill, but would increase coverage subsidies, require greater accountability for health insurance companies and direct the federal government to pick up most of the tab for a deep expansion of Medicaid.
It's unclear whether the president's bill in its entirety--or pieces of it--could be approved through the process of reconciliation, which would limit debate and allow a fast-track approval with a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate instead of needing 60 votes to pass. “I'm not prepared to talk about that,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told reporters. “That's something we'll all have to work on.”
Other legislators, like Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), were open to the idea, even if controversial. “The Republicans have used reconciliation to effectuate their agenda. What's good for the goose, is good for the gander,” Connolly said.
Waxman said the caucus was holding out hope that some Republicans would join in their effort to get health reform done this year. “I think we'll see if the Republicans want to join us at the [president's] summit on Thursday, or stay with their decision to cover 3 million as opposed to 30 million” people, Waxman said, referring to the GOP-sponsored reform bill that was introduced last fall.
On Obama's proposal, Waxman said he was pleased it would eliminate a compromise provision that would have boosted Medicaid reimbursements only in Nebraska—the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback”—and that it would take steps to address affordability and waste, fraud and abuse. “I think the president has listened to the members of House and Senate and come up a proposal that's in sync with the discussions we've been having at the White House,” he said.
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