House Dems concerned about taxes, exchanges in health talks

House Democrats huddled on a conference call this afternoon to express their concerns about healthcare negotiations with the Senate.

House Democrats are especially concerned about the so-called “Cadillac” tax on high-end health insurance plans designed to help cut costs in the Senate bill. A measure House Democrats fear the White House may favor over the millionaires’ surcharge included in the House version.

"Everyone's letting us know that they want to make sure, as you can fully appreciate and respect, how much effort and time went into putting forward the House bill and how much they favor those positions," Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters after the conference call.

Though members "equally understand how important it is to get a bill done," Larson said Pelosi would make clear how her members feel.

Speaker Pelosi quipped yesterday that Obama had shifted some of his positions since the campaign, a comment that many believe was directed at the president's support for an excise tax.

House leaders on Thursday said that they will be firm in the upcoming closed-door negotiations with the Senate.

"The Speaker is working tirelessly to make sure our positions are very clear to the president," Larson said.

The scope of the insurance exchanges has emerged as another key difference between the two chambers. The Senate established a series of statewide exchanges, while the House prefers a single, national exchange that they say would increase choice for consumers.

"That is one of the issues that's outstanding," Larson said. "We think it makes sense and based on the number of the comments from members from specific states like Texas and others who feel like that would leave an awful lot of people out without a national exchange.

President Obama is scheduled to address House Democrats' concerns with the whole caucus next week at an "issues conference."