KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Senate Democrats to Start Marking-Up Health Care Reform Bill in June and Other Reform News from Capitol Hill

Senate Democrats want to start marking up health care reform legislation by the middle of June, The Hill reports.

"A copy of a schedule for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee obtained by The Hill has the panel starting its markup of the healthcare reform bill on June 16. Six days are scheduled for the markup, which the committee hopes to complete on June 25.

"The HELP committee, chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), will walk through the to-be-released legislation June 2-3, according to the schedule. A bipartisan walk-through is scheduled on June 5 and 9. Possible hearings for the bill are then expected either on June 10 or 11."

The Senate Finance Committee also has jurisdiction on health care reform, and its Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has been holding closed-door meeting in recent weeks to discuss possible financing options a bill (Bogardus, 5/28).

In the meantime, White House aides and Congressional sources have said the $1.2 trillion reform will be funded through a combination of ways, including possible tax increases on sugary foods, alcohol and tobacco; spending cuts in programs such as Medicare; and taxing or capping the amount of tax-free employer-provided health benefits, McClatchy Newspaper/Seattle Times reports (Goldstein, 5/29).

Also, battles over public opinion continue.

Politico reports that on Thursday, the Service Employees International Union sent a letter to Washington's D.C. NBC affiliate asking them to pull a 30-minute ad opposed to creating a government public plan for health insurance. "The SEIU has not seen the ad, but is drawing the conclusion from [Conservatives for Patients' Rights'] record of running 'demonstrably false' ads. The station has the duty to protect the public from misleading advertising, the letter argues. If the ad is aired and does contain falsehoods, CPR could face a fine from the Federal Communications Commission, said Levana Layendecker, the online campaigns director for Health Care for America Now, a coalition pushing to create a public insurance plan."

A CPR spokesman offered this response: "'It's no surprise that they would try to block the public from seeing any information about the dangers of government-run health care,' [CPR's spokesman Keith] Appell said. 'This program is full of compelling first person accounts that every American should hear'" (Frates, 5/28).

Meanwhile, liberal groups are attacking their own as a $10,000 advertising campaigned is being aimed at Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., for opposing the government public plan, The Hill reports in a separate story. "The Change Congress ads charge that Nelson's opposition to a public health insurance plan is linked to campaign funds he has received from health insurance groups. Citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the ads say Nelson has accepted $2 million from health insurance companies over three Senate campaigns." Nelson says a public plan would be the end of private insurance, but a spokesman said the group was misleading the public on Nelson's opinion (Swanson, 5/28).

And a direct-mail advertisement along with a Web advertisement is being sent to 3,000 Democratic donors around the Nebraska, Roll Call reports. "Change Congress' ad campaign against Nelson is built around Lincoln resident and self-described "Eisenhower Republican" Allen R. Schreiber, who claims he had to shut down his small business after private health insurance companies denied coverage to his five employees. Schreiber also refers to himself as a Nelson voter. Also: "On Wednesday, the conservative group Patients United Now launched a television ad campaign in eight states, including Nebraska, with the aim of influencing moderate Senate Democrats such as Nelson to oppose a public plan," Roll Call reports (Drucker, 5/28).

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