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House health reform bill is moving again — MedCity Morning Read, July 30, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to take a summer break from health care reform, House Democrats on Wednesday brokered a deal with White House backing that eases the impact on small businesses and trims the $1 trillion price tag. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan reform bill are advancing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just when you thought it was safe to take a summer break from health care reform, House Democrats on Wednesday brokered a deal with White House backing that eases the impact on small businesses and trims the $1 trillion price tag, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Democrats agreed to resume stalled deliberations in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of three committees that put together health reform proposals in the House. It is likely the energy committee will approve a bill later this week, the Journal said. Congress begins taking a summer recess on Aug. 7 and will reconvene after Labor Day. A full House vote likely won’t happen until September, the Journal said.

President Obama had set Aug. 7 as the deadline for having both House and Senate reform bills on his desk. Now, the president seems content to have a reform bill to sign by the end of the year. Â Committees in both chambers must finish their proposed legislation and reconcile it with others in their chambers before taking respective chamber votes. Then, the House and Senate must combine their bills for the president to sign.

The Democratic deal was worked out between a group of fiscally conservative Democrats, known as “Blue Dog” Democrats, and Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the House energy committee, the Los Angeles Times said. The deal snips $100 billion from the $1 trillion cost of the House reform bill, over 10 years. It also exludes more small businesses from a mandate to provide health care coverage for workers, the Times said.

With the deal, House Democrats preserved a plan to create a government insurance program that would compete with private insurer plans. Democratic leaders believe the government plan will help drive down costs and give many consumers a new insurance option, the Times said. But the deal takes steps to keep the government, through its management of Medicare, from having an unfair competitive advantage over private insurers, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, in the Senate Finance Committee, chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said his committee’s efforts to build a bipartisan reform bill are advancing. Baucus cited an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that his committee’s bill would cost less than $900 billion over 10 years and would cover 95 percent of uninsured Americans, the Journal said.

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