A Hot, Stormy August Forecast for Health System Reform

Angry voters, public and private meetings, and more amendments all describe the ever changing landscape of health system reform across the state and nation. With Congress in recess, numerous groups have called for town hall or private meetings with lawmakers to discuss issues associated with health care reform measures now on the table on Capitol Hill. Concerns over security and “opposition plants” have prompted some legislators to impose controls to ensure that meetings can address voter concerns in a civil and reasonable manner.

A highly respected medical affairs analyst reported on August 7 that approximately 350 amendments, stuffed into 39 file boxes, surrounded H.R. 3200 as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee worked to mark up and approve a health reform legislative package before the House recessed. As the analyst put it, “the outcome really does not mark the end of the process—just the beginning.” In other words, the real health care reform legislation will be a hybrid merged in September in the House Rules Committee under the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

A similar challenge is ahead for the Senate where the Senate HELP Committee has already marked up its version, and the Senate Finance Committee is tasked with reporting out its bill by September 15.  That date could change as slow progress is reported while Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus continues his efforts to piece together a bipartisan health reform package. White House staff, led by President Obama, began negotiations with a bipartisan group of six Senators (3 Democrats and 3 Republicans) last week, with negotiations expected to continue throughout August.

President Obama has dispatched two top aides, senior advisor David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, to lead the White House health system reform effort. Axelrod is armed with polls that indicate Democrats can win over women, seniors, rural voters and independents using the argument that reform is a way to change insurance company behavior. Messina is countering political campaigns by conservative groups and others saying, “If you get hit, we’ll punch back twice as hard.”

Keep track of health system reform issues and access important resources, including how to contact your Senator or Representative, at www.ncmedsoc.org and on the Doctor-to-Doctor blog, http://www.ncmedsoc.org/blog/.

 
 

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