While healthcare reform will indeed be the central focus for Congress as it heads back from its August recess September 7, Washington insiders believe that the Senate Finance Committee will not have a healthcare bill crafted by its original September 15 deadline, and the odds of lawmakers getting legislation to President Obama’s desk by October 15 is iffy at best. But they are optimistic that some type of reform will be passed by year end.
The big unknown now, says Frank McArdle, principal and manager of Hewitt Associates’ Washington, D.C., research office, is what members of Congress “feel they can sell to their constituents” about healthcare reform post hearing a lot of input–positive and negative–from the public during town hall meetings held in August. There were some calls from the public to “slow [healthcare reform] down and scale it back,” McArdle says. “There is still a very heavy investment in healthcare reform and a full court press to get something done before the end of the year, but exactly what that comprises and how it will come about is uncertain at this point.”
The death of former Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), who chaired the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, also leaves the outcome of healthcare reform in flux. The Massachusetts legislature has scheduled a September 9 hearing to discuss filling Kennedy’s Senate seat. Kennedy “was adept at reaching bipartisan compromises,” McArdle notes, so all eyes are now on the six Senators who have been attempting to craft a bipartisan healthcare bill. The group of six Senators “hold the key as to whether there will be a bipartisan approach [to healthcare] or not.”