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Biden Urges House, Senate to Pass Health Bills Prior to August Break

Vice President Joseph Biden on Wednesday called on Congress to stick to its original schedule and pass health care legislation in the House and Senate by the summer recess.

“We must and we will enact reform by the end of August,— Biden said during an event at the White House with hospital officials. An aide said Biden meant in the statement to refer to passing bills in the House and the Senate before recess, as lawmakers had planned this spring.

There have been growing concerns that, with the failure of the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees to finish markups on schedule before the July Fourth recess, the deadline for passing bills in each chamber would slip into September.

Biden was emphatic in insisting that the health care reform effort itself remains healthy, saying multiple times that it is “on track— and that it will get done this year.

“Reform is coming. It is on track, it is coming,— Biden said. “We’ve never been as close as we are today, and we remain on track.— He also repeated twice that President Barack Obama was “firm— in his goal of ensuring that the legislation is deficit-neutral.

Biden said he met just before Wednesday’s event with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Biden announced as expected that hospital groups are pledging to take a $155 billion hit over 10 years to help pay for expanded health insurance coverage under the bill, mainly through reduced increases in scheduled Medicaid and Medicare payments. Biden said the reduction was justified because with more people insured, hospitals will be picking up less of the tab for paying the cost of treating the uninsured.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a statement accusing the White House of strong-arming the hospitals and others into helping back their health reform effort.

“The Administration and congressional Democrats are literally bullying health care groups into cutting backroom deals to fund a government takeover of health care,— Boehner said. “That will increase costs and force millions of Americans out of the health care that they currently have.—

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