Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:May 13th, 2009 18:28 EST
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Expects Health Care Reform Bill In Congess By Summer

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi pressed that her office would have a comprehensive health care reform bill up for debate in Congress by July 2009, a bold statement on Wednesday that President Barack Obama publicly lauded.

Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama

The president addressed reporters about the impressive announcement on the south driveway of the White House alongside Pelosi and leading Democratic leaders who are panelists on Congressional committees overseeing the daunting task of remodifying the national health care system.

"That`s the kind of urgency and determination that we need to achieve what I believe will be historic legislation," Obama said at the media conference. "Our health care system is broken. We are not going to rest until we`ve delivered the kind of health care reform that`s going to bring down costs for families, improve quality, affordability, accessibility for all Americans."

The Democratic Speaker from California, with other Democratic representatives, conferred with the President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office right before they walked out to meet the press and released Pelosi`s statement. No Republicans or Senators took part in their conversation:the nature of which has been kept confidential.

"We promised him that we will have this important legislation on the floor of the House before the August break," Pelosi asserted. "Our goal is to have a healthier America."

The plan, of which Obama subscribes, includes coverage for about 50 million uninsured Americans and is a larger component of the vow he made to heavily retool the United States` ailing health care program.

None of the lawmakers present revealed exactly how the legislation will appear in bill form, which has raised serious doubts among the bipartisanship in Congress. The Obama administration has remained tight-lipped over refinements to the plan that have emerged from talks on Capitol Hill. White House spokespeople claim that the particulars of the legislation will be worked out after politicians agree on a concrete proposal.

Independent analysts predict that Obama`s proposal should amount to about $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

As the national deficit continues to skyrocket at unprecedented levels, many experts question how Obama will realize a plan that will take actual remunerations and not merely rhetoric to achieve the initial costs of sweeping medical care coverage.

In summation, the health care initiative will probably include various tax increases and further reforms in trimming down other federal health programs. Like administrations in the past, Obama may raise taxes on vice items such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and naturally sweetened soft drinks. Many states have already seen dramatic tax hikes on alcohol and tobacco. Lawmakers may also pass limits on health care-based tax reductions, like flexible spending accounts.

Senators now are weighing the benefits of restricting, though not entirely terminating, the tax-exempt status of employer-funded medical care coverage.

Employer-funded health benefits fall under the category of workers` compensation and are not subject to taxation, like wages in the assistance program, according to current tax policies. Close to $250 billion is lost in tax revenues every year due to the tax-free conditions of workers` compensation.

When asked about passing a levy on health coverage, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who led a round table discussion of senators on Tuesday, is toying with a stance that may clash with President Obama`s ideas on the matter.

The senator said the tax breaks needs a serious overhaul but opposed eliminating it completely.

"We are not going to repeal it," Baucus said.

The lavish funds needed for the health care revisions could be curbed by taxing health insurance for high-income Americans, Baucus mentioned. But the Montana senator refrained from going into detail over what income rackets would be eligible. He also suggested that programs providing the most coverage, such as health care that doesn`t require co-payments and/or deductibles, could be taxed once the cost surpasses a not-yet-devised level.

Senator Chuck Grassley, R-IA, who is a leading Republican in the health care reform process, is on board with the underlying concept of spreading benefits to include more taxpayers, but is partial to reducing or even terminating certain health care programs.

"That will go a long ways towards bringing health care costs down," Grassley suggested on Tuesday. "I think it`s good of them to offer it but whatever they say doesn`t amount to anything unless the Congressional Budget Office scores it appropriately and in a sense agrees that by doing such-and-such, you save X-number of dollars."

If the new health care plan includes taxing health benefits, even those employees who are relatively healthy will have to pay a fraction of the taxes on the medical assistance they had never needed. Some tax ideas aren`t even in consideration, especially a federal sales levy used to finance future medical care or a potential payroll tax.

President Obama was vehemently against taxing health care benefits on the campaign trail, claiming it would negatively affect job-related medical programs. Aides closest to the president report that Obama is now open to ideas from Congress regarding how to responsibly exercise the new policies. But Obama`s switch in opinion contradicts his platform from the presidential campaign, denouncing a similar rendition of the bill proposed by Republican fellow presidential contender John McCain.

Experts in the private sector tout that the possibility Congress will find the necessary amount of money to accomplish the plan is highly unlikely. And analysts can only foresee the bill-in-action succeeding if the administration and lawmakers pass restrictions on the standing health care tax breaks.