Capitol Hillbillies

Details of House, Senate health reform plans

House Democratic leaders are offering a $1.2 trillion, 10-year health overhaul bill that expands coverage to millions of Americans. House Republicans have unveiled their alternative, after months of criticizing the Democrats’ approach.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is finalizing legislation merging the work of two committees and making other changes.

Here are details on the three bills. The Senate bill has not yet been made public, so some specifics are unknown.

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The House Democratic bill (Affordable Health Care for America Act):

WHO’S COVERED: About 96 percent of legal residents under age 65 — compared with 83 percent now. About one-third of the remaining 18 million people under age 65 left uninsured would be illegal immigrants.

Congress close to new aid for unemployed, homeowners

Congress is one vote away from sending the president legislation that continues aid to more than a million jobless people and extends tax breaks to hundreds of thousands of prospective homebuyers and struggling businesses.

The legislation, recognizing the lingering distresses of the recession, passed the Senate Wednesday on a 98-0 vote and could come up in the House as early as Thursday, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the bill was “vital to Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the deepest recession in over three-quarters of a century.”

Unresolved disputes threaten health care reform

Just a few unsolved problems — and one final sales job — stand between House Democratic leaders and a landmark vote on President Barack Obama’s promised remake of the nation’s health care system.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, the unresolved issues are among the most vexing out there: abortion and immigration.

And although they’re confident they’ll succeed, Democratic leaders have yet to nail down the votes they’ll need to pass their sweeping bill. They’re aiming for floor action to begin as early as Friday and finish before Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Or, as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer put it when asked when the House would take up the health care bill, “Friday or Saturday or Monday or Tuesday.”

“We want to make sure it’s correct,” Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Monday.

Yikes! House health care bill cost: $1.2 trillion!

The health care bill headed for a vote in the House this week costs $1.2 trillion or more over a decade, according to numerous Democratic officials and figures contained in an analysis by congressional budget experts, far higher than the $900 billion cited by President Barack Obama as a price tag for his reform plan.

While the Congressional Budget Office has put the cost of expanding coverage in the legislation at roughly $1 trillion, Democrats added billions more on higher spending for public health, a reinsurance program to hold down retiree health costs, payments for preventive services and more.

Republicans offer ‘simpler, cheaper’ health plan

Republicans say the Democrats’ proposal to overhaul health care is far too complicated, intrusive and expensive and are urging several steps they claim would bring down costs while not greatly expanding government involvement.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, outlined a health care alternative in the GOP’s weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. It comes as the Democrats’ health care proposals are gaining momentum in Congress and Republicans are scrambling for support to try to block it.

Health care businesses face heavy cost for reform

The health care overhaul bill produced by House Democrats would impose an array of new taxes, fees and government mandates on major players in the health industry, including insurers, doctors and drugs and medical devices makers.

In most cases, the pain has been meted out with an eye toward raising the money needed to finance President Barack Obama’s plan for reshaping the health system but also with careful regard for gaining the votes that will be needed to pass a final bill.

‘Let’s kill grandma’ stays in health care reform bill

It’s alive. The Medicare end-of-life planning provision that 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said was tantamount to “death panels” for seniors is staying in the latest Democratic health care bill unveiled Thursday.

The provision allows Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling to help beneficiaries deal with the complex and painful decisions families face when a loved one is approaching death.

Screwup reveals details of House ethics probe

Internal investigations into the conduct of several House members have been exposed in an extraordinary, Internet-era breach of security involving the secretive process by which Congress polices lawmaker ethics.

Revelations of the mostly preliminary inquiries by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — also known as the Ethics committee — shook the chamber as lawmakers were immersed in a series of scheduled votes Thursday.

Can Pelosi deliver the goods on health care?

After months of contentious negotiating, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepared to unveil a retooled health care overhaul plan intended to bridge differences among Democrats and open a history-making floor debate on extending health insurance to nearly all Americans.

Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to have the legislation on the floor next week, with a final vote before Veterans Day, Nov. 11, that would give President Barack Obama a bill to sign by year’s end, numerous Democratic officials said. She planned a formal announcement of the bill Thursday in front of the Capitol.

The bill would require nearly everyone by 2013 to sign up through their employer, a government program or a new kind of purchasing pool called an exchange. Tax credits would be available for most of those buying coverage through the exchange. They would have the option of picking a new government plan or private insurance.

Harry Reid needs a Plan B…any Plan B

Senate Majority Leader is probably feeling like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis.

His deal on a public option for health care reform is falling apart, his party faithful are jumping off the Democratic Titanic and he needs a Plan B — any Plan B — to try and salvage the centerpiece of the Obama administration.