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The Latest From Washington on the Health Care Reform Proposal

The following is an update of the status of health care reform proposals in both the Senate and House and an outlook on the likely timing and ultimate effective date of health care reform.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee released a bill and began marking up in Committee the week of June 15th and expects to finish by week of July 6.

The Senate Finance Committee has yet to release legislative language. Speculation is that Committee will release their bill week of July 6 and seek to begin marking up in Committee that week or soon thereafter.

Once markups are completed in both the HELP and Finance Committees, there will need to be some process to merge the two different Committee bills into one bill. This could occur during Senate floor consideration through the amendment process. The Senate Democratic leadership has indicated its intent to seek to pass a bill before the Senate recesses for summer break on August 7. Note that the Senate, if there is no Republican support for the final Senate health care reform bill, could seek to move the bill under reconciliation rules which allow a bill to be approved with a simple majority rather than a super majority needed to overcome a filibuster. Due to the delay in the release of the Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill Senate floor consideration could easily slip to the week of September 7.

House of Representatives
House released a Tri-Committee bill on June 19 (Ways and Means, Energy & Commerce and Education and Labor Committees). This release was followed by a series of legislative hearings in all three committees on aspects of the tri-committee proposal.

The House Committees of jurisdiction are scheduled to begin marking up health care reform legislation the week of July 13 with House floor consideration the week of July 27 and finish before the House begins its summer recess on July 31.

House Senate Conference
Once the House and Senate have passed their respective health care reform bills they will need to reconcile the differences between their respective versions in what is called a conference. The timing of conference is likely to take place the last two weeks of September. Once this is completed there will be a conference agreement that will then need to be voted on by both the full House and Senate and then sent to the President.

The President said he would like a health care reform bill to his desk by Oct.1, 2009. Once the President signs the legislation it will become law, but note that the effective date of the law will not be until Jan. 1, 2010, with some provisions containing even later effective dates.

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