Waxman Looks to Wrap Markup Friday Afternoon

Posted July 31, 2009 at 9:52am

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said Friday he hopes to adopt the deal he crafted with Blue Dog Democrats to cut $100 billion from the health care overhaul and finish his health markup by 2 p.m.Waxman appeared to have struck an agreement with liberals who had been balking Thursday at moving the Blue Dog deal forward. Some 57 liberal Democrats have vowed to oppose a bill that contains the Blue Dog agreement on the House floor.Republicans also nearly succeeded in adding an amendment to the bill Thursday night that would have restricted the Blue Dog deal. That amendment would have prohibited the use of any existing Medicare reimbursement rates from being used as the basis of a new public insurance option. The deal Waxman struck allowed the secretary of Health and Human Services the discretion to negotiate rates with providers at some level between Medicare rates plus 5 percent and rates paid by private insurance plans.That amendment failed on a 29-29 vote. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), chairman of the Blue Dog health care task force and the lead negotiator on the deal struck by four Blue Dogs, did not vote. Two other Blue Dogs, Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Zack Space (D-Ohio), voted with the Republicans. The fourth, Blue Dog Co-Chairman Baron Hill (D-Ind.), voted to defeat the amendment.Liberals are demanding that the reimbursement rates be based on Medicare; the Blue Dogs say Medicare’s rates are too low and expanding them to a public insurance plan could force rural hospitals to close.