This week, the U.S. Senate began a historic debate on comprehensive legislation to overhaul our nation’s health care system. Prior to the Senate’s Thanksgiving holiday recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a merged Senate bill that combined some provisions from the Senate Finance Committee’s bill, some provisions from the Senate Education and Labor Committee bill, and some new provisions that were not in either bill.
The Senate bill, which is titled the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” was able to garner the necessary 60 votes on a procedural motion to prevent a filibuster and pave the way for a long debate on the Senate floor. This means that the Senate expects to vote on a final health care bill, after all senators have had a chance to be heard.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV-right) with Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)
Hundreds of amendments will likely be offered to the bill, meaning debate on the measure will continue throughout the month of December and perhaps into January. If the Senate is able to pass a comprehensive reform bill, then a conference committee made up of select members of the House and Senate will meet to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate-passed bills.
In its current form, the Senate bill does not include some of the more problematic House provisions that are in conflict with SHRM’s broad policy statement. These include changes to the Employee Income Retirement Security Act (ERISA) and a rigid employer mandate to provide coverage. The key HR provisions in the Senate bill are outlined in this updated chart.
Please keep in mind that the legislation will change during the Senate debate as amendments are adopted. Therefore, SHRM’s Government Affairs Team will continue to analyze the bill’s provisions to determine if the overall measure meets SHRM members’ reform goals.
For more background on SHRM’s advocacy efforts on health reform, please see the November 13 edition of the HR Issues Update.