Lawmakers are headed back to Capitol Hill to resume negotiations on a health overhaul bill. The Washington Post’s Ceci Connolly reports, “All eyes will be on the Senate Finance Committee, which has yet to release a bill but is widely believed to be the only hope for formulating a bipartisan approach.”
But bloggers are lagging a bit behind–perhaps thrown off by the long weekend–and many are still absorbing the rereleased cost estimate ($611.4 billion instead of $1 trillion) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill.
As Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf explains, there is still much to settle before any bill (or the Finance Committee’s) is finalized:
This estimate reflects the major provisions of the legislation but CBO has not yet completed an analysis of all of its effects. Specifically, the agency has not yet estimated the administrative costs to the federal government of implementing the specified policies or the costs of establishing and operating the new insurance exchanges, nor has it taken into account all of the proposal’s likely effects on spending for other federal programs or their potential effects on revenues from corporate taxes.
Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky compiled a chart comparing the new and old cost estimates come from in the HELP bill.
But it looks like an employer mandate is the key issue sparking online contention over the last few days. Heritage’s Con Carroll thinks the penalty to employers for not providing coverage–currently set at $750 per year per full-time employee–is a “job killer.” He says:
In other words, the HELP committee wants to pay for their health care plan in classic “tax-and-spend” liberal fashion: by instituting a crippling new tax on our nation’s businesses. And not just any new tax. A tax directed like a heat seeking missile at job creation: an employer mandate.
Over at the New Republic’s The Treatment, Anthony Wright thinks the $750 penalty may not be enough. He urges the Senate HELP Committee to follow the House Tri-Committee’s current proposal, which penalizes employers the equivalent of 8% of payroll. Wright continues:
It’s still less than the average of what employers who do provide coverage contribute now, but it would help working families feel more secure in the coverage they have now, and increase the likelihood of getting decent benefits at their next job. It would level the playing field for employers who do provide coverage, but often have to compete against those who don’t.
HELP Committee members resume their markup tomorrow at 10 a.m.
While lawmakers continue to hammer away in order to reach the perfect number, some sites are checking the public mood. Last week the Kaiser Family Foundation released the first in a series it’s calling “Data Notes“, which examines the spread in public opinion polling on certain health reform issues. The first is on “Footing the Bill.” (Kaiser Health News is a project of the Foundation.)
In a post titled “Are Americans willing to pay for health reform? It depends how you put it…” Health Populi’s Jane Sarasohn-Kahn notes:
At the end of the day, 3 in 5 Americans think it’s possible to ‘do’ health reform without spending any additional funds. “This feeling that change could come without pain likely makes Americans less likely to back anything with a price tag,” KFF foresees…This unease and concern about job security will bolster the KFF forecast that Americans generally would like health reform to be a zero-sum spend. However, there’s a countervailing reality that may play against this: that job insecurity roughly equals health insurance insecurity.
There’s plenty of time for opinion to move one way or another: yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation”, Finance Committee Dem Chuck Schumer, N.Y., set August 8th as a goal to vote a bill out of committee.