Leading Health Care Experts Tell Senate To Step It Up

UPI/Newscom

Democratic insiders, members of Congress, and health care reformers are now ramping up pressure on the Senate to take procedural steps to assure a comprehensive bill can become law. The House is signaling that it’s ready to pass the Senate’s health care bill, but only if the Senate gives concrete signs that they will follow suit, and pass a separate amending bill through the budget reconciliation process–a move that is increasingly seen as a necessary precondition of a successful reform push.

Today, 49 leading health care experts–who recently urged the House to act–are now acknowledging that the House deserves an act of good faith from the upper chamber before it pulls the trigger on reform.

“Key differences between the bills, such as the scope of the tax on high-cost plans and the allocation of premium subsidies, should be negotiated through the reconciliation process. Key elements of a reconciliation compromise enjoy broad support in both houses,” reads a new letter from the experts to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT); and President Obama. “Other discrepancies between the House and Senate bills can be addressed through other means.”

Last Friday, we urged the House to adopt the Senate-passed bill along with improvements that can be immediately achieved through reconciliation. We urge the Senate to join the House in this effort, and we urge the President to sign both bills.

The experts, including public option founder Jacob Hacker and progressive economist Dean Baker, also say that Congress should discard calls for paring down the scope of reform, or trying to break health care legislation into smaller chunks, and passing them one by one.

“Some have proposed dividing the bill or starting anew with negotiations to produce a less comprehensive bill,” they write.

From the perspective of both politics and policy, we do not believe this is a feasible option. We doubt that the American public would welcome more months of partisan wrangling and debate. We doubt that the final product would match what has already been achieved. Indeed we doubt that any bill would reach the President’s desk should congressional leaders pursue this misguided course.

You can read the entire letter here.