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Daily Health Care News – 10/15/09


White House Team Joins Talks on Health Care BillNew York Times

A delegation of senior White House officials met on Wednesday at the Capitol with the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the chairmen of the Finance and health committees, as Democrats turned their full attention to merging competing versions of the comprehensive health care legislation.

Democrats launch attack on insurer exemption

The long-simmering tension between insurers and congressional Democrats is erupting into open warfare, with lawmakers stepping up their push to revoke a key federal protection for the insurance industry.

Unions Say Public Plan Is Needed
Wall Street Journal

Labor groups criticized the Senate Finance Committee’s health-care plan Wednesday as “deeply flawed” for its lack of a government-run option and its tax on expensive health-insurance plans.

No Snowementum: Centrists not sold

Senate Democrats took their newfound momentum for health reform into closed-door talks with White House aides Wednesday but still faced a months-old problem: centrist Democrats who aren’t sold on Obama-style reform even now.

Medicare Advantage Premiums Expected to Rise 25% Next Year
Wall Street Journal

Premiums that seniors pay for Medicare Advantage plans will increase an average of 25% next year, largely because insurers, in response to new federal requirements, are canceling many plans that carry no premiums, a top Medicare official said Wednesday.

Pelosi seeks centrist support for liberal public-option healthcare proposal
The Hill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seeking to modify the House healthcare legislation to bring centrists around to the more liberal government-run insurance option, hoping that will give her the strongest negotiating position with the Senate.

Hidden Costs of Medicare Advantage
Washington Post

Patrick Higney, 66, doesn’t want to give up the freebies that come with his zero-premium Medicare Advantage plan: free aspirin and free Band-Aids, a free blood pressure machine and a free ear thermometer.

McConnell: Reform debate should be given monthsPolitico

The Senate should have months to debate an issue as complicated as health care reform, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said Wednesday.


Why Are Insurers Exempt From Antitrust Laws? Ezra Klein

Just had a quick chat with Sen. Chuck Schumer, which didn’t offer up enough for an interview transcript, but did yield an interesting nugget on the effort to strip insurers of their antitrust protection. I asked Schumer what would actually happen if the amendment passed. “At the hearing today,” he replied, “Christine Varney indicated there could be real enforcement of the antitrust laws in states where one insurer dominates the market.” Varney is the government’s top antitrust lawyer, and her testimony is here (pdf). This is the crucial bit:

Real Health Care Reform or Bust

The health care reform legislation approved yesterday by the Senate Finance Committee is “deeply flawed.” In full-page ads in the Washington Post, Politico and other dailies, union leaders say that comprehensive health care reform that brings down costs, improves quality and guarantees coverage for all “is closer than ever.”

Echoing Insurance Industry, Lieberman Says He Doesn’t Support Baucus Bill
Think Progress

In August, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told CNN that he believed it was the wrong time for President Obama and Congress to attempt health care reform. “I’m afraid we’ve got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy is out of recession,” said Lieberman. “There’s no reason we have to do it all now.”

Yes, It’s Another Fishy Insurance Study
Jon Cohn

By releasing a transparently hyperbolic and self-serving study on the effects of health reform, the insurance industry appears to have blundered in a big way. They discredited themselves in the eyes of the media elite, alienated potentially sympathetic members of Congress, and rallied Democrats around a common foe.

Insurance Money Influence in the Senate

Well, the drama is over for the moment. AHIP had its hissy fit. The Senate Finance Committee bill was rubber-stamped (14-9), as expected. An uncertain forecast for Snowe did indeed produce some precipitation, though future chances of Olympia Snowe’s vote on the final Senate healthcare bill are slim. And in a final touch of irony, the only major health reform bill NOT to include a public option will now be merged with one originally called “Medicare For All.” But what’s most interesting is the numbers.

(compiled for Health Care for America Now)

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Jason Rosenbaum

Jason Rosenbaum

Writer, musician, activist. Currently consulting for Bill Halter for U.S. Senate and a fellow at the New Organizing Institute.