Senate Committee Drafting Legislation on Health Care

Published June 1, 2009

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is working on drafting legislation imposing a government-mandated health care system on America for consideration before the August recess, according to committee sources.

“It sounds like there is a cacophony out there of people demanding that government take charge of health care and implement sweeping reforms,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation.

“But I think they will have to settle for an incremental approach,” Gessing continued. “I’m not sure how it will all pan out, but I think Congress will have to alter health care very slowly—and it won’t all happen by this August.

“I don’t think you’re going to have universal coverage or any sweeping health care legislation by the August recess or even in the next couple of years,” Gessing said.

Warning Against More Intervention

More government intervention in health care is not the answer, says Paul Guppy, vice president of research for the Washington Policy Center.

“It’s ironic that government policies over the years, like mandates, entitlements, regulations, and market restrictions, have contributed to the rising cost of health care, then a powerful U.S. Senator proposes more government control as the solution to a problem that he helped create,” Guppy said. “A better solution would be to let health insurance function like a normal market, with consumers, not government officials, deciding what coverage works best for them.

“Open choice, innovation, and competition would drive down costs, as [they have] in telecommunications and a host of other sectors, and make health coverage affordable and portable for most people, while public safety net programs would be available for low-income people who really have no other options,” Guppy said.

Interest Groups Gathering

Representatives from 20 lobbying groups and Senate aides from both parties have taken part in stakeholder meetings hosted by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-MA) staff to discuss the health care overhaul, according to Senate sources. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee has been holding meetings on the issue. Information from these meetings has not been released to the public.

Kennedy’s drafting group plans to meet several times a week through June in hopes of developing legislation by early summer.

Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Chicago.