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Health Action Moves To House (Updated)

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As lawmakers ponder the fate of the Senate Finance Committee health bill, the House Ways and Means Committee is preparing a major new health bill of its own.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said his committee will resume considering the America’s Healthy Future Act bill draft Tuesday.

The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation have predicted that implementing the current draft as written could save $81 billion over 10 years, and more in later years, but CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf warned that achieving those results would depend on sticking with Medicare provider rate control provisions that Congress has had a hard time enforcing.

CBO and JCT budget impact analyses are critical, because some Democratic lawmakers say they will refuse to vote for a health bill that would increase the federal budget deficit.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says she intends to send 3 House health system bills to the CBO, and House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who is facing questions about how well he has complied with tax laws and asset disclosure rules, has said his committee is completing work on a health bill.

The AHFA bill draft proposes a system of health insurance purchasing exchanges rather than use of government-run, “public option” plans. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has proposed another Senate health bill that includes a public option, and Pelosi has indicated that the bill she will send to the CBO each will include a version of the public option concept.

Pelosi sent health insurance company stocks reeling today when she reportedly suggested she might consider requests to impose a “windfall profits” tax on health insurers, to help offset the spending increases included in the House health increases.


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