Washington – Executives from the health insurance industry are negotiating health care legislation in place of vacationing senators, specifically taking up the work of the Senate Finance Committee, according to people with knowledge of the ongoing meetings and members of the committee.
The Senate is in recess until early September, and it was assumed negotiations on the health care bill being fashioned by the Finance Committee was largely on hold until the key committee members could meet once again. But it was revealed today that unidentified insurance industry executives had taken over the negotiations in the committee’s absence.
Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, said the decision to let the executives shape the legislation was made because so much of the bill is already written to favor the health insurance industry.
“What we figured was, we’re on vacation, and the bill is basically being written for them anyway,” said Conrad. “So while we’re gone, why not have them come in, if they’re willing, and do some work on it themselves? That way we’re that much closer to it being the bill they want when we get back.”
Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine agreed.
“It just makes sense,” she said. “In addition to being able to have the bill move forward during our break, it also saves the step of us having to go in, pretend we’re really negotiating a bill based on what we believe in and what our constituents want, and then call the insurance guys and see if what we’re doing is okay. This way, there’s no discrepancy between what they want in the bill and what is actually in the bill. And the room gets used, which is nice.”
“I think the guy from Aetna’s in my chair,” said Conrad.
The senators also agreed that it was unclear what would happen when they return from vacation.
“I assume we’ll go back to ‘negotiating’ the bill, or whatever you want to call it,” Conrad said. “But that’s only if they want us to. I mean, if they want to stay and keep working on it, that’s fine with me. We’ll hang out and wait till we hear from them. Hopefully they’ll do the whole thing without us.”