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Waxman Prepared to Take Health Care Directly to Floor

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told reporters Friday he is prepared to bypass his committee and go straight to the House floor with a health care reform bill if he can’t get an agreement with Blue Dog Democrats.

Waxman said his preference is to reach a deal with the Blue Dogs, whom he is meeting with this afternoon, and “go forward with the markup and stand together as Democrats.”

But he added, “If we can’t, then it’s my view that we are going to have to look at perhaps bypassing the committee — I hope we don’t come to that conclusion.”

Waxman said he would meet Friday afternoon with the seven Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee who oppose the health care package to discuss a new proposal aimed at addressing regional disparities under Medicare.

“I think this would deal with their issues,” Waxman said. “I hope they will agree to let our committee go forward with a markup and not [allow] Republicans to eviscerate the legislation.

“In fact I won’t allow that — to turn over the control of the committee to the Republicans — which is what they have threatened to do.”

Waxman and Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) said they had reached a “major breakthrough” on fixing regional disparities in Medicare reimbursements.

“This is the result of extensive negotiations the Speaker convened where she invited everyone with concerns about this issue to participate,” Waxman said.

Miller said the Institute of Medicine would conduct two studies. One, which would take a year, would look at regional disparities and direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to implement the study’s recommendations. A second, which would look at comparative effectiveness and aim to focus payments based on quality not quantity, would take several years and not take effect unless Congress voted to disapprove the recommendations.

Miller said the talks on the proposal ended at 11:30 Thursday night after hours of meetings. He said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ordered them to stay until they had a deal.

“And she didn’t send in any food,” Miller said with a chuckle.

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