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HEALTH REFORM: Appraising Senate Finance's Delivery System Proposals

April 29, 2009

Senators Baucus and Grassley and the members and staff of the Finance Committee are once again leading the way to a more sustainable health system.

HEALTH POLITICS: Senate Finance Releases Proposals for Delivery System Reform

April 28, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today released a set of policy proposals for reducing costs and improving quality in the health care delivery system. On Wednesday, the two senators will meet with other members of the Finance Committee to walk through the options.

HEALTH REFORM: Senate panel backs Sebelius for HHS... Full Senate to Vote

April 21, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee has sent the nomination of Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be Health and Human Services Secretary to the full Senate by a 15-8 vote (only two Republicans, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Pat Roberts of Sebelius's home state of Kansas joined the panel's 13 Democrats). We aren't sure yet how quickly the full Senate will vote but it can't come a moment too soon.

IN THE NEWS: Senate Finance Roundtable Discussion on Delivery System Reform

April 21, 2009

We'll be tweeting the Senate Finance Committee's roundtable discussion on delivery system reform. You can follow our coverage of the event live on Twitter (tag: #SenFin), and read our wrap up of the roundtable later today.

HEALTH REFORM: April Showers Bring June Mark-ups

April 20, 2009

Spring break may have just ended, but two Senators are already thinking about summer.

HEALTH POLITICS: Washington Post Misses Real Key to Fiscal Balance

April 20, 2009

You know you have a hot and complex issue on your hands when an editorial in a major newspaper seems to attack rather than educate and confuse rather than clarify. I noticed such a troubling editorial in the Washington Post last week.

HEALTH REFORM: What's Your Special Today?

April 16, 2009

If health reform had a breakfast menu, the issue of a public health insurance option would be the special of the day. At the Kaiser Family Foundation's newsmaker briefing Wednesday morning (video here), Nancy-Ann DeParle was cooking.

HEALTH REFORM: Mark Your Calendars

April 15, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today announced a series of health reform roundtables for the months of April and May that will focus on delivery system reform, coverage, and financing. From the press release, the scheduled hearings are as follows:

April 21, 2009 - Reforming America's health care delivery system: this discussion will focus on improving the quality and efficiency of care through establishing value-based purchasing programs and strengthening the role of primary care, better managing patients with chronic illnesses, facilitating the use of comparative effectiveness research and other tools that support evidence-based care, reducing hospital readmissions, reforming payments to private plans in Medicare, and increasing transparency and reducing fraud and abuse in federally financed health care programs.

May 5, 2009 - Increasing access to health care coverage: this conversation will focus on potential policies to expand health care coverage to all Americans including proposals to strengthen the health care safety net, expand public health care programs, expand access to private health coverage by creating premium subsidies for low-income Americans and reform the individual and small group health insurance markets, create tax credits for small businesses to afford insurance, make it easier to shop for and find affordable coverage options, and focus on the prevention of disease and promotion of healthy lifestyles.

May 14, 2009 - Financing comprehensive health care reform: this discussion will focus on policies to finance the cost of investing in comprehensive health care reform.

HEALTH REFORM: Follow Up Questions with Governor Sebelius

April 13, 2009

During her hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Secretary of HHS-designate Kathleen Sebelius responded to Senator Schumer's questions regarding whether Americans should be able to choose between public and private health plans, by noting such a situation of fair competition already exists in over 30 state employee benefit plans.

In her written follow-up to the questions submitted for the record by the Finance Committee, Sebelius addressed some of the Republican concerns about the public health insurance plan. In response to a question from Senator Kyl on whether a public plan was necessary to insure all Americans, Sebelius explained some of President Obama's thinking when he included the idea of a public health insurance plan among his campaign proposals:

The President‘s campaign plan proposed a public option alongside private insurance options in a National Health Insurance Exchange. He recognizes the importance of giving the American people this choice, which would also challenge private insurers to compete on cost and quality, not cream-skimming and risk selection.

Sebelius also addressed Senator Ensign's concerns about the ability of private plans to compete with a public health insurance, stressing the importance of "maintaining a level playing field" and stating "the public plan option should pay providers competitive rates, and the private plan options should be barred from cherry-picking the healthiest enrollees." Sebelius had similar responses to Senator Grassley's questions on the issue, making clear that "the President is open to good ideas from both sides of the aisle, and he will work with Congress on this and other elements of the plan."

While the issue of a public health insurance plan has figured prominently in earlier coverage of the health reform debate, only a handful of the 209 questions posed to Sebelius by members of the Senate Finance Committee were about a public plan. Here's a brief sampling of Sebelius response to some of the major health reform questions:

HEALTH POLITICS: A Time for Reflection

April 8, 2009

The Congressional Recess appears to be a time for reflection. Both CQ Weekly and the National Journal have pieces this week examining the state of the health care debate, where it is going and what it will have to overcome.

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