Health Care Progress Report: November 16

Congress is pressing up against its Christmas deadline for passing health care legislation, and yet the Democrats' health care plans remain as controversial and tenuous as ever. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected any day now to finally reveal the health care bill he will bring to the floor for what may be weeks of debate. Meanwhile, interest groups are up in arms over an abortion-related amendment surreptitiously added to the bill passed in the House.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

As Washington lawmakers have been working through the six major steps they need to complete to pass a health care reform bill, CBSNews.com has been tracking their progress for you on the chart below. Reid will have to finish the second step very soon if he intends to complete step three and pass a bill in the Senate before the year is up. His job only becomes more complicated as more time passes, giving reform opponents a chance to scrutinize the bill passed out of the House on Nov. 7.

(CBS)


More on the progress of health care legislation in each chamber of Congress.

(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
HOUSE: House leaders, no doubt pleased with their passage of health care legislation, skipped out of town last week for a Veterans' Day recess. The debate over H.R. 3962 is far from over, however.

Both opponents and supporters of abortion rights have been galvanized into action after the House passed, with the help of 64 Democrats, an amendment to the bill to limit insurance coverage for abortion. The so-called Stupak amendment would prevent women who receive federal subsidies for health insurance from purchasing plans that cover abortion. It would also explicitly ban abortion coverage from the government-run plan, or "public option." It would also likely have the effect of keeping private insurers from selling plans on the national health insurance exchange that cover abortion.

Abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood, which normally would support the Democrats' plan to expand health coverage, said they have no choice but to oppose the House bill. Meanwhile, Republicans found themselves in hot water with some of their online allies after it was revealed the Republican National Committee has been offering its employees insurance coverage for abortions through Cigna. RNC Chair Michael Steele promptly said the group's coverage would change.

Meanwhile, a report released Saturday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concludes that health care costs would rise as a share of Gross Domestic Product by 2019 under the House health care plan. Republicans wielded this new information to continue their denouncement of Democrats' plans.

Democrats have cut some industry deals in attempts to bring down health care costs, but they may not be as effective as planned. The New York Times reports that the pharmaceutical industry is raising its prices at the fastest rate in years -- even as the Consumer Price Index falls -- canceling out a large portion of the $80 billion in savings the industry promised to President Obama.

(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
SENATE: Abortion and cost issues are just as hazardous for Harry Reid in the Senate. The majority leader has not yet decided how to deal with the issue of abortion in his bill, Roll Call reports, but he nevertheless wants to begin a floor debate on his bill before Thanksgiving.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has said that he wants to see language similar to the Stupak amendment added to the Senate bill. If he is not pleased with the bill's treatment of abortion or its other provisions, he may join a Republican filibuster, Nelson said on Wednesday.

Reid needs to keep all 60 Senate Democrats in line to defeat a Republican filibuster -- unless he chooses to use a procedural maneuver called reconciliation. Former President Bill Clinton paid a visit to Senate Democrats last week, urging them to pass the bill soon, regardless of its imperfections.

In another potentially controversial move, Reid is reportedly considering increasing wealthy Americans' payroll tax in order to help pay for the legislation.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that the Senate should have at least six weeks to go over the legislation once it is revealed. Reid is waiting to receive a cost estimate for the bill from the Congressional Budget Office before unveiling it.

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