Health Care Legislation Back on Track

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Disagreements between House Democrats that stalled the progress of health-care reform legislation were bridged Wednesday with a White House-orchestrated compromise that cuts the cost of the bill and delays the vote.

     “I’m especially grateful that so many members, including some Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, are working so hard to find common ground,” President Barack Obama said.
     Of the five committees charged with working on health-care reform, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Finance Committee are the only ones that have not yet agreed to legislation.
     The energy committee, after a 10-day impasse, has returned to marking up the bill, and is expected to agree to a bill by the end of the week after Democratic leaders compromised with more conservative Democrats.
     The agreement would shrink the overall cost of health-care reform, and it would also push a floor vote on the legislation until after the August recess.
     Among the major changes, the agreement would omit businesses with payrolls of $500,000 or less from employee coverage obligations, expanding the group of exempt businesses, which was originally restricted to those with payrolls of no more than $250,000.
     States would also have to pay into Medicaid, altering the original plan where the federal government was responsible for the entire cost.
     The government plan, intended to compete against private insurance companies, would work on a state and federal level. States would have the option of setting up similar non-profit plans. The government plan would negotiate rates like other insurance companies, and would not automatically pay Medicare rates.
     Democrats have been fighting to hold onto members of their own paty in the administration’s drive for health care reform, and the compromise achieved Wednesday puts the process back in gearmay pave the way towards passagethe agreement may prove an end to the turmoil.
     Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, White House director of the Office of Health Reform, were said to have mediated the compromise.

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