Health Reform Watch: After Tragedy, House Resumes Repeal Agenda

BY Lea Winerman  January 14, 2011 at 11:39 AM EST

After Shooting, House Resumes Repeal Agenda

House Republicans said Thursday that the House will take up a vote to repeal the health care reform law next week, resuming their legislative agenda one week after it was delayed by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona.

“It is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end, we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health-care bill next week,” Brad Dayspring, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in a statement.

The House will debate the bill Tuesday and vote Wednesday. The measure is expected to pass the Republican-led House, but stall in the Democratically-controlled Senate.

The new Republican leadership faces a careful balancing act — sticking to their legislative agenda while encouraging a more civil debate in the wake of the Arizona shooting. Politico reported that “GOP leaders are making clear to their members that their rhetoric is under a microscope.”

But Republican leaders have rejected Democrats’ call to change the name of the repeal bill from the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”

Defining an “Essential Benefit”

Even as the repeal vote resumes, the work of implementing the law goes on. A government advisory panel met this week to begin answering one key question: Which benefits will insurers be required to offer in order to participate in the health insurance exchanges that begin in 2014?

The health reform law outlines broad categories of coverage, such as outpatient and inpatient care, emergency services, mental health care and others. But it will be up to federal regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services to fill in the specifics. The Institute of Medicine panel that met this week will offer recommendations to HHS.

Insurers want to keep the regulations flexible, but some consumer groups want to require insurers to cover more specific benefits, Kaiser Health News reports.

In California, Insurance Premiums in the Spotlight — Again

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has asked insurers including Aetna, Blue Shield and Wellpoint to delay premium increases of up to 59 percent in the state while his office reviews them, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The move turns the national spotlight back on California, where last year a controversy erupted over a 39 percent increase in some Wellpoint premiums. Wellpoint reduced the increase after a review by Jones’ predecessor.