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Baucus Staff Meets With Health Care Lobbyists

The staff of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) continued its outreach to business lobbyists on Thursday, convening a meeting of K Streeters to discuss health reform legislation.

Thursday’s “stakeholders— meeting included representatives from big business lobby groups and some of America’s largest companies, according to people familiar with the session.

“It’s a good place to hear out what people are wondering about,— said one lobbyist who attended the meeting, adding that the powwow was friendly.

According to lobbyists at the meeting and a Baucus spokeswoman, the discussion covered several topics including the politically thorny issue of having a public option included in health reform efforts, as well as employer-mandated coverage and the general timeframe for legislation, which is expected to get marked up before the July Fourth recess.

Those who attended included Bruce Josten, a top lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Maria Ghazal of the Business Roundtable; Amy Jensen Cunniffe, an in-house lobbyist for General Electric; Nancy Taylor, a health care lobbyist with Greenberg Traurig; Neil Trautwein of the National Retail Federation; Janet Trautwein of the National Association of Health Underwriters; Paul Dennett, health policy vice president with the American Benefits Council; Amanda Austin of the National Federation of Independent Business; Missy Jenkins, who represents the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association; and Katie Braden Huffard with the lobby firm Fierce Isakowitz & Blalock.

A second source who attended the meeting said the Baucus staff has been actively involved in bringing business stakeholders in for the listening sessions.

“That’s the value of the Senate process,— this source said, adding that the House health care reform process has largely been shut to outside business interests.

A third participant said the meeting was focused more on the process than specific policy areas. “It is clear the Senate Finance Committee wants this to be a bipartisan bill,— the source said.

The meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building was run by Baucus chief of staff Jon Selib. In a previous session two weeks ago with Democratic lobbyists, Selib and the committee’s top aide, Russell Sullivan, told lobbyists to hold their fire against health reform bills or risk being left out of the discussions.

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