WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said on Friday he would take a proposal to a group of fiscally conservative Democrats that he considered to be a "significant breakthrough" on regional disparities in the funding of a proposed new public healthcare plan.
"This proposal, worked through by the Speaker (Nancy Pelosi) and members who participated, would address that matter by solving the disparities within Medicare for all regions of the country," Representative Henry Waxman said.
But he admitted he did not know whether the group, known as Blue Dogs, would accept the proposal and allow the panel to vote on the healthcare overhaul legislation.
"I think this should deal with their issues, and I hope they will agree to let our committee go forward with a markup (vote), and not vote with the Republicans to eviscerate the legislation," he said.
Some conservatives say that because there are already regions of the United States that are underpaid by the government's existing Medicare health care plan for the elderly, a new public health plan for everyone would be plagued by similar regional disparities.
He said he was prepared to let the full House of Representatives bypass his committee on healthcare reform if the panel could not reach agreement on its version of the legislation.
Fiscally conservative Democrats on Waxman's committee have refused to go along with the proposal over its high cost of $1 trillion over 10 years and that has stalled the process of getting a bill to a vote in the full House before it begins a monthlong recess on July 31.
"If we can't (reach agreement), then it's my view that we're going to have to look at perhaps bypassing the committee, because we've got to get moving on this legislation. I hope we don't come to that conclusion ... but the most important thing we've got to do is get legislation," he said.
The conservatives had raised some important issues, but "this can't be an interminable discussion," Waxman said.
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved