National Consumers League

Health reform a reality through 'reconciliation'?


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By Mimi Johnson, NCL Health Policy Associate President Obama just released his proposed plan for health reform. This proposal follows last Thursday’s bi-partisan summit to explore health reform compromises and solutions. In agreement with many Americans, the President suggests we have little time to waste in passing this bill and must move quickly. A likely solution for getting the bill to the President’s desk is to use reconciliation, which was also echoed by Senator Harkin. The reconciliation process was designed by Congress to quickly get legislation through Congress and is often used to reduce the federal deficit. It requires only a majority vote in the House and Senate, and debate is limited. According to Senator Harkin, the House must first pass the health reform bill that was passed by the Senate in December before it can go through the reconciliation process in the Senate. Some on the Hill suggest this can be done before the President leaves for international travel on March 18; others suggest something might reach the President closer to Easter. As the President’s plan to Congress reminded us, the reforms proposed will provide consumers with greater choice and control over their health care and lower costs (including reduced premiums), and will end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.