Early Passage of Health Care Reform Unlikely As Obama Continues to Seek Action

Posted on July 7, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

As the Congress races toward its August recess, President Obama’s demand for early passage of legislation to guarantee all American’s health care coverage faces serious challenges.
“Now is the time for us to finally do something about health care. We have been talking about it enough, we have had commissions, we have had white papers we have had blue ribbons. We have talked about it and talked about it, and now it’s time to act,” Obama said at a fund raiser last week in Washington.
Still, the White House appeared to step back from its demand the Congress complete work on a health care reform package this summer. Said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “We’re going to make progress on health care reform. And I think you’ll see a reform bill come to his desk later this year, and one that he will sign.”
While there is general agreement that the need for reform is critical, the President’s plan to provide a government option for those who cannot afford private health care coverage is among the most challenging hurdles.

Also fueling the debate is the possibility that employers would be required by law to provide health care coverage for their workers. Obama has said the nation’s 46 million uninsured must be covered and that he would support mandatory coverage with an exemption for small businesses.

But at the core of the debate is a fundamental question: Who’s going to pick up the tab. The Congressional Budget Office examined the two main Senate bills and found that one offered by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) would cost $1 trillion while a second measure being developed by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would cost $1.6 trillion.

Obama, who has said the reform package must not add to the nation’s budget deficit, says much of the plan will be paid for through the elimination of wasteful Medicare and Medicaid spending. Also on the table are new taxes on health care benefits for the rich and new sin taxes.

The so-called government option, which would put the federal government in the business of insuring Americans for the first time, has been maligned by Republicans because they believe it will create unfair competition for the insurance industry.

“If there is a government competitor, you will not be able to keep what you have,” said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who heads the Health Care Solutions Group for House Republicans, which is drafting its own measure.

“For those that say it’s just another competitor in the field…, there’s no fact ever that bears that out. Government will not compete fairly. We believe there’s a bigger marketplace beyond today’s marketplace we can help create fairly,” he said.

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