Seeking to revive stalled health care reform legislation, a top official says the Obama administration plans to present its own reform bill next week.
At a news briefing Thursday, February 18, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the administration would present a proposal and post it online prior to a February 25 health care summit. President Barack Obama earlier called the bipartisan televised summit in an effort to reach a consensus on health care reform legislation.
The House and Senate bills differ in many areas. One key difference is that the Senate bill would impose an excise tax on the most costly group health insurance plans, while the House bill would continue health care plans’ tax-free status.
Another major difference is that the House bill would create a government-run health insurance plan—known as the public option—allowing the uninsured and others to obtain coverage, while the Senate bill would not.
To date, the administration has endorsed only broad health care reform concepts, leaving it to congressional Democrats to draft the legislation.
Democrats’ efforts to bridge the differences and agree on a final compromise bill stalled last month following Massachusetts’ special election that eliminated Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
As the administration nears release of its own proposal, Washington observers say Democrats now intend to attach a reform bill to a budget reconciliation measure—unless the administration plan attracts GOP support.
The appeal of that approach is that budget bills need only a simple majority to be approved and would not need Republican votes to pass Congress. On the other hand, such measures can include only items that affect the federal budget.