August 03, 2009
House Committee Votes Friday to De-Link Public Plan From Medicare rates
ASA applauds the House Energy and Commerce Committee for adopting an amended version of H.R. 3200 that allows physicians and hospitals to negotiate payments under the new public plan option. The bill passed the Committee late Friday, July 31 by a vote of 31-28. Passage of the bill out of committee was supported by 31 Democrats on the committee and opposed by all 23 Republican members joined by five fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats.
H.R. 3200, the “America’s Health Choices Act,” originally included a public plan option based upon Medicare’s unacceptably payment rates. After weeks of negotiations, late Friday, the Committee accepted an amendment authored by Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), the Chairman of the Blue and supported by ASA that de-links the public plan from Medicare rates and “[P]rovides additional level playing field requirements for the public plan,” among other provisions.
The amendment, offered and strongly supported by the Blue Dog Coalition, passed the Committee 33-26.Blue Dog amendment
While this is an important step in the right direction, it is not certain that the House will ultimately vote on a version of H.R. 3200 that does not include a Medicare rate-based public plan option. The Energy and Commerce Committee language must be merged with alternative versions of H.R. 3200 previously passed by the House Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees—the two other House committees with jurisdiction over health care reform.
It should be noted that the Medicare-based public plan option is still not a closed issue. In addition to a Medicare-based public plan included in the alternative Committees versions of H.R. 3200, in response to the Ross Amendment a group of liberal House Democrats is fighting hard to re-link the public plan option to Medicare payment rates. Last week the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen of the key health care committees demanding that health reform legislation include a Medicare rate-based public plan.
From the letter:
“Any bill that does not provide, at minimum, for a public plan option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates—not negotiated rates—is unacceptable.”CPC letter
During the August Congressional Recess from now through September 8, ASA members are strongly encouraged to stay informed and engaged. Please bookmark the ASA health reform webpage
and check often for updates. ASA will provide additional Congressional Recess material in the days ahead. Be prepared to take action when called upon.