For all of the hand wringing currently going on in Washington over the future of healthcare reform, a panel of members of Congress—current and former, Republican and Democrat—said Tuesday that some version of a healthcare bill would pass this year. At a healthcare forum hosted by Politics magazine, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and former Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas) all said they believed President Obama would sign some sort of a healthcare reform package. Another former member, Connecticut Republican Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), was less optimistic, but put the odds at 50-50. That doesn’t mean each member of the panel didn’t have reservations about the proposed legislation, which is effectively on hold as Congress waits for the Congressional Budget Office to score the bill that came out of the Senate Finance Committee. Burgess, who is a doctor, said he is certain legislation in some form would pass, but worries about the cost of the bill and the possibility that individuals would be required to have health insurance. Barrasso, another doctor, echoed Burgess’ concern over cost and said he was unsure how comprehensive the reforms would be. On a scale of one to 10, Frost said gave the bill’s chances of passing an eight. “It is clear something will pass,” he said. But, the moderate Democrat added, he “would not vote for a bill that was not paid for” if he were still in the House. Frost was also skeptical of some proposals to cover the cost of the bill. Trimming money from Medicare is very risky politically, he noted. “Congress usually shies away when it comes to actually making cuts,” he said. Johnson was the most reluctant to say something will be passed. She did say that “we have an opportunity here” and advocated against extending Medicare, a prescription that former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean espouses. “You can’t do the future just like we did the past because that’s what got us here,” Johnson said.
Jeremy P. Jacobs is the staff writer for Politics magazine.