House Retains Public Option In Compromise, But Delays Vote Until September

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Ok, here’s some late breaking detail on the nature of the compromise between House Blue Dogs and Democratic leaders.

I’ll fill in more blanks as I get more information, but here’s my immediate read on the situation: Substantively, leadership seems to have given up very little, but, Blue Dogs succeeded at slow walking the bill, which won’t get a vote until after the August recess.

After a week or so of canceled hearings, the Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to mark up House health care legislation this afternoon, and pass a bill by the end of the week. On substance, the exemption from penalties for small businesses that do not provide health care to workers has been raised to include small businesses with payrolls of $500,000 per year or less. Originally the bill called for the exemption to apply only to businesses with payrolls half that size.

The public option hasn’t gone away, and remains in tact. Now, though, instead of being directly tied to Medicare, the rates will be negotiated by the Health and Human Services secretary–a provision which at a glance seems similar to the public option the Senate HELP Committee endorsed. States will be able to erect health care co-operatives if they choose, but that would be in addition to the public option.

The Blue Dogs managed to pull $100 billion in savings from the bill by lowering by one percent the rate at which people living between 300 and 400 percent of the poverty level will be subsidized to buy health care in insurance exchanges–they had originally tried to eliminate that bracket entirely.

Blue Dogs will likely herald this as a major victory, but compared to their original wishlist, this seems pretty minor.

As before, it’s hard to know what will happen to the politics of this over the August recess. But there will almost certainly be a bill ready for a vote when the House comes back into session in September. That bill will have been endorsed in preliminary votes by a significant number of Blue Dogs. And in the House, where there’s no filibuster, that makes its prospects for ultimate passage look very solid.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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