The announcement of the agreement between the White House and the hospital industry came at a White House ceremony, with the deal announced by Vice President Joe Biden. President Barack Obama is traveling in Europe.
Biden, with officials from several big hospital trade associations at his side, was upbeat about the prospects of reform legislation being enacted this year.
“Reform is coming. It is on track. … We have never been as close as we are today, and things remain on track,” he said.
Still, the original timetable for consideration of health care reform hasn’t been met. For example, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, earlier said his committee would start to consider a bill in mid-June, but a bill has yet to be produced.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, though, has been considering a draft proposal during the past few weeks. It isn’t known when that panel, which shares jurisdiction on health care legislation with the Finance Committee, will vote on a final bill.
In the House, the chairmen of three committees with jurisdiction on the issue unveiled a draft bill, but committee action on that proposal hasn’t begun yet. The HELP Committee and House chairmen’s bills, among other things, would require all but small employers to offer coverage meeting certain standards or be slapped with financial penalties.
Few details about the agreement between the White House and the hospital industry were released at the White House ceremony. The hospital industry, though, could stand to be a big winner if Congress approves a key element of health care reform legislation, moving the country closer to universal coverage.
More than 46 million Americans lack health insurance. If a big dent is made in that number, hospitals would see a significant reduction in the amount of uncompensated care they provide.