Week in Review from Capitol Hill

Protesters arrested, millions slung on ads and lawmakers hash it out
May 15, 2009 -- It’s been a week of heated healthcare debate on Capitol Hill dotted with multiple arrests of single-payer protesters who disrupted Congressional hearings. Taking flak was Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who found himself one of five Democrats targetted by Health Care for America Now! a campaign that strongly supports a public health plan option.
The most contentious issues on Capitol Hill were the creation of the public option, fully administered by the government, and whether to impose an individual mandate that says everybody has to buy health insurance.
Politico.com had a good story early in the week on a bill taking shape in the Senate Finance Committee.
The Senate Finance Committee is exploring whether to impose a mandate that would require individual Americans to purchase health insurance, which has proven controversial in places like Massachusetts where it has been tried.

The idea comes in a 63-page “policy options” paper released Monday by the committee ahead of a private negotiating session Thursday, where it will debate options to expand access to health coverage, as called for by President Barack Obama. Read more >>
The Associated Press had this piece about House Democrats’ consideration of an individual mandate.
House Democrats are crafting a plan that would require all Americans to carry health insurance and would help families making less than $88,000 pay the premiums. Employers, too, would have to help foot the bill. Read more >>
And here’s the quick USA Today version.
After weeks of discussing ways to provide health care to the uninsured, Congress is beginning the difficult task of finding a way to pay for it.
Lawmakers are considering a broad range of ideas — including a federal tax on sugary sodas — but a key Senate committee focused Tuesday on a proposal to tax health insurance that millions of workers get through their employers. Read more >>
Meanwhile, the healthcare industry promised to cut cost growth by 1.5 percent, amounting to $2 trillion over 10 years, but many experts were skeptical.
That skepticism came in part to the public relations fight that brewed between opposition front man Rick Scott, a former hospital CEO embroiled in fraud. Scott now heads the campaign Conservatives for Patient Rights, formed with CRC Public Relations, the same firm that led the swift-boat attacks against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
Scott and his group will spend $1 million in May, according to press reports, on ads that denounce Canadian and Britain single payer systems. The campaign has roughly $20 million, including $5 million of Scott’s own money.
The consumer advocacy campaign Health Care for America Now! has about $600,000, some of which it spent this week targeting key Democrats including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).


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