While it remains unclear precisely how or when differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill will be resolved, below is a brief update.
As debate continues in the Senate and during a conference process, as of now, many of our key priorities have been included in both Bills:
1. Inclusion of mental health and substance use disorders in the essential benefits package
2. Expansion of the Wellstone Domenici parity law to all qualified plans
3. Workforce and prevention grant funds
As mentioned, however, differences do exist between the House and Senate bills. For example, legal analysis of the bills to date has found the House parity language to be stronger..
Over the weekend, Senate leaders announced they were feeling cautiously optimistic about the likelihood of final passage of a health care bill. Negotiators are continuing to make progress on finding compromises on the controversial issues of abortion and the public plan/buy-ins to Medicare and Medicaid.
We understand Senate leadership may try to start the process of closing debate on the health care reform bill by the end of this week. Senate leadership may file three cloture motions (motions to close debate) on: the Senate health care reform leadership bill, a manager's amendment to the bill and the underlying shell House bill (H.R. 3590) that is serving as the legislative vehicle for the legislation in the Senate. Under Senate rules, up to 30 hours of debate is required between when cloture is filed and when a vote occurs - as each of the three motions will require 30 hours, the process will likely take days.
Senate leaders hope to complete the Senate's consideration by December 18th or 21st. Once/if the Senate passes its bill, the differences between the House and Senate bills will need to be reconciled. How long that process might take or what form remains unclear. We will continue to keep you apprised as negotiations continue.