Liberals strike healthcare deal with Blue Dogs

Liberals on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have struck a deal with Blue Dogs that will restore some cuts by finding savings in other places, such as letting the government negotiate drug prices.

The deal would allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices and use the savings to lower insurance premiums in the exchanges that would be established in the bill, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Hill.

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Another amendment calls for finding additional savings through other methods by simplifying Medicare and Medicare administrative costs.

The cuts sought by the Blue Dogs would remain in place unless the drug negotiation and other initiatives yield savings. But any savings would be used to lower premiums.

The deal is to be structured in three amendments: the Blue Dog amendment and two "unity amendments."

A group of seven Blue Dogs had stalled negotiations for more than a week until they reached a deal with Waxman and House leaders to cut costs and change the government-run "public plan" so that providers' reimbursement would not be pegged to Medicare rates.

The deal also cut funding to subsidize people who want to join the public plan. That angered more liberal members of the committee, who sought to restore the subsidies. They joined Waxman and the Blue Dogs in announcing an agreement this morning.

"We will achieve affordable, quality healthcare,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Waxman’s committee is the third and final House committee to complete work on a sweeping health reform bill moving through Congress.  Both Ways and Means and Education and Labor have passed similar bills.

Still, three Blue Dogs on the committee have not agreed to the deal, and have frequently voted with Republicans during the markup. And 57 liberal members not on the committee have signed a letter saying they oppose the Blue Dog changes and will vote against the measure if it is sent to the House floor.

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