KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Many Amendments Already Introduced To Senate Finance Bill

The Salt Lake Tribune: "Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has 51 ways he wants to change the latest health reform proposal including one amendment that would ease a tax on high-end insurance plans for 'any state with a name that begins with the letter 'U.' ... Most of Hatch's amendments try to gut the Baucus bill, add ideas he has long championed or point out what he perceives as inequities. He is pushing amendments that would eliminate the requirement for individuals to have insurance and the requirement for companies to offer it. Hatch will try to kill health care co-ops and planned expansion of Medicaid" (Canham, 9/22).

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is offering 30 of his own amendments to the Senate Finance bill, The Las Vegas Sun reports. "Ensign's offerings span the hot-button issues of the health care debate and beyond: He wants to ban money for the controversial community activist group ACORN, block health coverage for illegal immigrants, halt the expansion of Medicaid and replace the word 'fee' with the word 'tax' throughout the bill. Democrats see these as 'nuisance amendments' aimed at grabbing publicity and derailing the bill" (Mascaro, 9/22).

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Fla., offered 14 amendments, "including one to protect proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage," The St. Petersburg Times reports in a blog. "Nelson wants to effectively phase out the extra benefits - which include vision and hearing care -- but help those that currently enjoy them" (Leary, 9/22).

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has an interview with Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., another member of the Senate Finance Committee. He defended the proposal put forth by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., saying the bill "is certainly not the status quo. The Baucus health care reform proposal is fully paid for. It expands coverage to 94 percent of Americans and, most importantly, it begins to bend the health care cost curve in the right way." Conrad added that he does not agree with the Congressional Budget Office's assessment of health insurance co-ops, which found that co-ops "seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country." Conrad said that the co-ops "collectively would be the third-largest health insurer in the country and would certainly have a significant market presence. In fact, one expert has stated he believes co-ops would have an 8 to 10 percent premium pricing advantage over existing health insurers" (Burcum, 9/21). 

CQ Politics reports that for Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, "[h]ealth care overhaul legislation does not appear to contain a good prognosis for a life in politics. In the latest Iowa Poll, conducted Sept. 14-16 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, the approval rating for the Iowa Republican plunged nearly 20 points, to 57 percent from 75 percent in January." Grassley has been criticized from both sides of the political spectrum: "Conservatives have been unhappy with Grassley for continuing to negotiate with Democrats, while liberals want him to support a government-run public insurance option and other proposals put forth by President Obama. Grassley, who's up for re-election in 2010, has not endorsed the overhaul bill unveiled last week by Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont." (9/21). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.