Back to the table

Patrick O’Connor has the details:

After weeks of head-banging negotiations, House Democrats finally got the breakthrough they needed on health care.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has cut the cost of his bill and cut a deal to reconvene his committee and vote on the Democrats’ sweeping health care proposals, with a goal of completing work by the time lawmakers leave town for the summer on Friday.

There won’t be a vote before the full House before the August recess, but the committee breakthrough – after tense negotiations with Blue Dog Democrats – is a significant step for the Democrats.

"After two weeks of very long and intense negotiations, I’m proud to report that we’ve reached an agreement that will allow health care reform to move forward," said Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, a top negotiator for Blue Dog Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

As a result of the deal, party leaders have agreed to put off a House vote until the fall, giving members more time to digest the legislation — and opponents more time to attack it.

The Blue Dogs also succeeded in cutting $100 billion from the overall cost of the bill, bringing the total price tag under $1 trillion. The legislation will now exempt small businesses with a payroll less than $500,000 from paying for any government-sponsored health coverage – double the $250,000 in the initial draft. Doctors and other health care providers would also be allowed to negotiate their payment rates with the government-sponsored health care arm.

The new version of the bill also has a breakthrough on the concept of health care “co-ops,” seen by some as an alternative to a public plan. States would be allowed to create co-ops for residents to buy private insurance. But the Waxman-Ross deal will also keeps the "public option" of government-sponsored health care.

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