Capitol Hillbillies

‘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.

Can feuding Democrats get it together?

Democrats are still struggling to find a strategy that will let them push a health care overhaul through the Senate and fulfill President Barack Obama’s goal of signing a bill this year.

A day after Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Democratic bill would include the option of a government insurance plan, moderates in his own party lost no time Tuesday in voicing their displeasure. Reid, D-Nev., needs every Democrat to break the filibusters Republicans are vowing to mount. But some of the moderates refuse to say whether they’ll stick with their leader on procedural votes, let alone those on the merits of the bill.

Long term health insurance plan advances

House health care legislation expected within days is likely to include a new long-term care insurance program to help seniors and disabled people stay out of nursing homes, senior Democrats say.

The voluntary program would begin to close a gap in the social safety net overlooked in the broader health care debate, but it must overcome objections from insurance companies that sell long-term care coverage and from fiscal conservatives.

“I’m pretty confident that it will be in there,” Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., a leading sponsor, said of the provision.

Public option possible but still not certain

The focus of the health overhaul debate now shifts to whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can persuade a handful of moderate senators to get behind his new proposal for a government-sponsored insurance plan.

That’s no sure bet. Even Reid, D-Nev., didn’t claim to have the 60 votes needed to pass his proposal when he ended weeks of speculation by announcing that the Senate version of sweeping health care legislation would include a provision for the government to sell health insurance in competition with private insurers.

Clock is ticking on health care reform

Time growing short, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate still face key decisions if they are to achieve President Barack Obama’s goal of passing legislation to remake the nation’s health care system by year’s end.

In the House, that means setting conditions under which the federal government would sell coverage in competition with private industry. The remaining disagreements among rank and file Democrats revolve largely around the fees to be paid doctors and hospitals under the plan, and whether they should be dictated by federal officials or established in negotiations.

Public option becomes real option in health care debate

Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have concluded that a government-run insurance plan is the cheapest way to expand health coverage, and they sought Friday to rally support for the idea, prospects for which have gone in a few short weeks from bleak to bright.

The shift in momentum is so dramatic that many lawmakers now predict that President Obama will sign a final bill that includes some form of government-sponsored insurance for people who do not receive coverage through the workplace. Even Democrats with strong reservations about expanding government’s role in the health-care system say they are reconsidering the approach in hopes of making low-cost plans broadly available.

Pelosi still needs more votes

Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped up the pressure on House Democrats on Friday to support her preferred version of legislation that would require the federal government to sell health insurance in competition with private insurers.

Her action came amid indications that Ms. Pelosi had not locked down the votes for the proposal, the most contentious element in a bill that would provide health insurance to more than 35 million people, at cost of nearly $900 billion over 10 years.