House committees release healthcare reform plan outline

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Chairmen of three House committees Friday released a draft outline of healthcare reform legislation as Democrats push to pass a bill by August.

Ways & Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) said the legislation would expand insurance coverage, reduce costs and improve quality. They plan to mark up a bill this week.

Meanwhile, bipartisan tensions have been rising since the release of the Congressional Budget Office's cost analysis report on certain healthcare reform proposals. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at a meeting of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week chastised Democrats over the cost of their bill, saying they had already made some grave errors in their reform efforts, reports The New York Times. Faced with criticism over cost and a public plan, Democrats have been trying to regain momentum for healthcare reform.

In related healthcare reform news, administration officials are brokering behind-the-scenes deals with drug makers in an effort to court senior citizens and the congressmen who represent them for healthcare reform support, according to recent reports from the capital. They reportedly are trying to convince drug companies to voluntarily expand prescription drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries in an attempt to woo seniors, according to The Washington Post. Such benefit enhancements could ease the blow of certain reform downsides that could upset people, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).