TOPICS > Health

Health Care Wrangling Picks Up Speed

BY Lea Winerman  July 28, 2009 at 5:35 PM EST

Pres. Obama at the AARP; Getty Images

He told the group, which lobbies on behalf of seniors, that ballooning health care costs threaten Medicare.

“Unless we act within a decade — within a decade — the Medicare trust fund will be in the red,” the president said.

Meanwhile, the action in Congress took place behind the scenes, in closed-door meetings and negotiating sessions. Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee got an update from chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., about the state of bipartisan negotiations with Republicans on the committee.

A panel of three Democrats and three Republicans have been trying to negotiate the only bipartisan bill in Congress. Right now, the Associated Press reports, they are zeroing in on a plan that would not include the public insurance option that the president and most Democrats favor, but would instead develop nonprofit healthcare cooperatives to compete with private insurers.

“Whether we get through markup or not [before the Senate's break begins Aug. 7] I can’t tell you today. But I am confident we’ll have a concept we’ll agree on,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a member of the bipartisan panel, told reporters.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already said that the Senate will not vote on reform legislation before the August recess.

That deadline is still in play in the House, where a reform bill has passed two of the three necessary committees. In the third committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, conservative Blue Dog Democrats have help up the vote, arguing that the plan will be too expensive.

Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., met with the Blue Dogs late Monday night, but failed to reach an agreement.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told AP that there were “ongoing positive negotiations” with the conservative Democrats.

Meanwhile, about 180 House Democrats met for nearly five hours Monday night for a tutorial and question and answer session to bone up on the massive bill, which is more than 1,000 pages long.

“No one’s going to say we haven’t read the bill,” Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, told the Washington Post.