“This would be a way of keeping faith with the American people,” Bennet said. “So when we say we're going to save money, they know we mean it.”
Bennet said he originally planned to offer the measure as an amendment when Congress was considering the healthcare law because it would provide a “fail safe” way of ensuring the legislation didn't increase healthcare costs, overall.
And the Obama administration may help push through the change to its signature domestic achievement.
Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, in her first congressional testimony on the healthcare law, said she would support Bennet in his efforts to write and pass such a measure.
Another Democrat examining a potentially serious change to the healthcare law is Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who asked the Congressional Budget Office last week to report to him on the cost differences between various levels of Medicaid growth. The law will increase minimum Medicaid eligibility nationwide to 133% of the federal poverty level by 2014 but some states have objected that they are already facing record budget deficits and cannot afford that increase. Manchin said he wants to know, in comparison, how much it would cost the states to instead set their minimum Medicaid eligibility to incomes of up to 100% of the federal poverty level.
The Democratic legislation will join a growing number of Republican initiatives to change the law, including some that may win the administration's support. For instance, Sebelius said she would consider supporting a short-term exemption for rural critical access hospitals from cuts by the Independent Payment Advisory Commission. The change to the healthcare law was proposed by Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) as a way to prevent any IPAB cuts, which can begin by 2015, from endangering the solvency of those hospitals. The law exempted larger hospitals from possible IPAB cuts until 2020.
“It's important that the critical access that they provide continue to be offered,” Sebelius said about the rural hospitals.
Sebelius was more critical of other Republican initiatives to change the law, including a measure introduced last week to establish first-time federal caps on the punitive damages that juries can award in medical malpractice cases.
Additional healthcare conflicts also could arise from the president's renomination last week of Dr. Donald Berwick as CMS administrator. Berwick was sworn in as a recess appointment without Senate confirmation in July, drawing Republican ire. Berwick could serve through this year without confirmation.