KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

On And Off Capitol Hill, Politicians Are Taking Positions On Health Bill

Roll Call: "Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Tuesday said she does not believe that the Senate Democratic health care reform bill will garner her vote, despite significant changes that are likely to be made to rid the bill of a public insurance option and an expansion of Medicare. Democrats have regarded Collins, along with fellow moderate Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, as potentially persuadable on the bill. In comments that aired on MSNBC, Collins said her friend Sen. Joe Lieberman's (ID-Conn.) achievements in ridding the bill of liberal priorities are not sufficient to assuage her concerns" (Pierce, 12/15).

NPR interviews Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who "supported a public option and the proposal to let Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 buy into Medicare, two items no longer included in the health care bill." Brown said "there are lot of really good things in this bill. I'm just disappointed that it's not as good as it could be, but we're going to keep trying. ... I never said I would vote against it. I never said I will draw a line in the sand. I did say I'm done negotiating the public option. I was hopeful that Senator Lieberman and others, but it's not really about any individual senator, but I was hopeful that they all wanted to be on the right side of the history and they would vote to stop the filibuster" (Block, 12/15).

Politico interviews Mike Leavitt, former secretary of Health and Human Services during President George W. Bush's second term. In terms of passing a health reform bill, he said,  "I put the scenarios into four buckets. One extreme would be something like the House bill passing. I'd put that at 5 percent. Another possibility would be nothing happening, and I'd put that at a relatively low number. The third bucket ... a light version of the Senate Finance Committee bill, where they take enough things out to get the votes they need. The fourth would be a Medicaid expansion. ... A lot of moderates most likely wouldn't object to that" (Mark, 12/16).

CBS News interviewed former Democratic leader Howard Dean, who said the "Senate health care bill in its current form should be scrapped." Dean told Vermont Public Radio: "This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. ... Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill" (Condon, 12/15).

ABC News also reports on blog reports that Dean essentially said "the removal of the Medicare buy-in means the Senate health care bill is no longer worth supporting" (12/15).

The Hill: "Dozens of congressional Democrats have threatened this year to hold healthcare reform hostage until they get what they want. The myriad of threats has been a headache for senior White House officials and congressional leaders who have to determine the difference between what lawmakers want and what they absolutely need in order to get them to 'yes.' That is why the House effort to pass healthcare reform stalled for months, and why Senate Democratic leaders are struggling to find a bill, any bill, that will get 60 votes." The Hill includes the positions of several critics from liberal senators such as Sherrod Brown (D) of Ohio, Roland Burris (D) of Illinois and Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont" as well as "conservatives like Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska and Joe Lieberman (I)" (Rushing and Cusack, 12/16).

Politico reports: "House Democrats' long-simmering frustration with the slow pace of the Senate has begun to boil over, with a broad swath of Democratic representatives accusing their Senate colleagues of failing both their party and their country" (O'Connor and Raju, 12/16).

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