Looking for a pulse
With plans for reform thrown into disarray, lawmakers ponder scaling back their ambitions
What just weeks ago seemed inevitable now seems impossible— unless lawmakers and the president can revive massive healthcare reforms bills that survived both the House and Senate but were put on life support by a special Senate race in Massachusetts.
Absent a miracle cure, everyone with a stake in the outcome is taking a collective breath to see how to proceed next. Their options range from taking up more modest reforms proposals to tabling reform indefinitely.
“Obviously, things have changed dramatically in terms of the political equation and the mood” on Capitol Hill, said Richard Pollack, executive vice president of advocacy and public policy for the American Hospital Association. The path to reform is at best, “murky” right now, Pollack said. “As each day, as each hour goes by, it seems like more options are being ruled out. We just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The healthcare reform effort collapsed last week as Republican Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts killed the Democrat’s filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The loss of that Senate vote delivered a blow to the healthcare reform bill, which House and Senate conferees had once hoped to deliver to President Barack Obama before his State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 27.
Disagreement in the House over such things as the extra Medicaid payments negotiated for Nebraska, a tax on high-value health plans known as “Cadillac” plans and overall affordability had also boiled to the surface in recent weeks, creating separate roadblocks to reform.
Some in Washington believe the president’s upcoming speech may be the catalyst that could save one of his major domestic priorities. “I am still confident that healthcare reform will be enacted. It’s too much of a priority for the administration, and Congress hasn’t sunk this much time into it” for it to fail, said Eric Zimmerman, a healthcare lawyer who is a partner
Massachusetts GOP state Sen. Scott Brown celebrates his stunning election to the U.S. Senate last week, a development that sent Democrats scrambling for a way to pass reform.