June 16, 2009 / 5:22 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. House looks for money for healthcare

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The powerful tax-writing House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee aims to have proposals to raise revenue by Friday to help pay the trillion dollar tab expected to be needed for broad health reform, Chairman Charles Rangel said on Tuesday.

Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) takes part in a meeting with members of the Senate to negotiate the stimulus package in Washington, DC, February 11, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“We’re going through the president’s revenue raisers and thinking about putting some others on the table,” Rangel told reporters after a committee meeting to discuss funding proposals.

The Democrat from New York said he needed to weigh which proposals might cause the party to lose broader support for healthcare reform.

President Barack Obama this weekend proposed cuts to healthcare programs, including trimming hospital funding, that he said could raise more than $300 billion to help pay for reforms. That is on top of about $300 billion in cuts he has already proposed.

Among the proposals Rangel is expected to announce by Friday are cuts to private plans that operate in the Medicare Advantage health program for seniors. Companies, including Humana Inc and UnitedHealth Group Inc would be impacted by these cuts.

Rangel also said the panel was weighing the “depth” of the subsidies that low-income people might get under any health reform legislation.

Ways and Means is one of three committees in the House that is drafting health overhaul legislation. Devising a way to cover them has become a major goal of Obama’s presidency.


Separately on Tuesday, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office wrote to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad noting that, “large reductions in spending will not actually be achieved without fundamental changes in the financing and delivery of healthcare.

“The government can spur those changes by transforming payment policies in federal health programs and by significantly limiting the current tax subsidy for health insurance,” Douglas Elmendorf said in a June 16 letter.

Rangel and some Democrats have been cool to the idea of touching the tax subsidy that millions of workers enjoy through their employer-sponsored health insurance. Unions strongly oppose any cap, which could be based on the average cost of healthcare and take into account income and geographic variation of costs.

Democratic Representative Richard Neal, who chairs a revenue subcommittee of the Ways and Means panel, said a cap on the tax free status of employer-sponsored healthcare is still being discussed.

“Everything is in the draft stage,” he said, following the meeting.

Two committees in the Senate are charged with the task and the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, which has laid out the tax as one option to pay for healthcare, is expected to unveil its version later this week.

On Monday, the CBO said one Senate proposal to expand healthcare coverage would increase the federal deficit by about $1 trillion over 10 years and still leave millions without insurance.

Reporting by Kim Dixon; additional reporting by Donna Smith; editing by John Wallace and Andre Grenon

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