WASHINGTON -- A new health care reform bill unveiled by House leader Friday contains provisions adopted earlier by tax lawmakers that would add new community benefit standards for 501(c)(3) organizations.
House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., described the new bill as an "amalgam" of various reform bills passed over the last several weeks by different panels, including the House Ways and Means Committee, which proposed the community benefit standards.
Gephardt told reporters that the leadership is committed to bringing the bill to a vote in the full House before Congress adjourns for a monthlong recess in mid-August.
Although he said he was optimistic that the bill would pass the House, Gephardt acknowledged that there would be a lengthy debate over its key provisions. "There's going to be a fire-and-light show," he said.
A summary of the leadership bill did not contain the new standards for 501(c)(3), or private nonprofit, organizations. But Rep. Sam Gibbons, D-Fla., acting chairman of the Ways and Means panel, said they are in the measure, as are other provisions not listed in the summary, because the leaden fashioned their new measure from the basic structure of the tax committee's bill.
Following the Ways and Means bill, the House leaders' measure contains no other provisions that would affect the tax-exempt bond market.
On the Senate side, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, DMaine, is also pulling together elements of various committee bills to come up with a new measure. Lobbyists have said they expect Mitchell to unveil his bill this week.
Municipal market participants are waiting to see if Mitchell retains a provision in the Senate Finance Committee's bill that would eliminate the $150 million limit on the amount of tax-exempt bonds that individual 501(c)(3) organizations may have outstanding at one time. The finance measure also would set community benefit standards for 501(c)(3) organizations similar to those proposed by the Ways and Means panel.
Under the Ways and Means bill, a 501(c)(3) health care organization would be required to:
* provide significant outreach services to the community in which it is located;
* assess annually the community's needs and develop a written plan stating how the organization plans to meet those needs;
* be willing to accept as patients individuals who are not covered by a government-sponsored health plan;
* provide emergency medical treatment to the poor;
* provide non-emergency health care, to the extent of its financial ability, without regard to the patient's ability to pay; and
* maintain an independent board of directors.