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No Major Health Reform in 2009?

That’s what Rep. Pete Stark, chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, implied today, according to The Hill. The California Democrat said that the economic troubles facing the country — as well as “deferred maintenance” health care issues like the renewal of SCHIP — would push the larger reform debate to late 2009 or early 2010, The Hill reports:

“I don’t think we’ll do it in the first 100 days,” Stark said.

That might leave some health care reform advocates worrying about what will be possible a year or more from now. President-elect Barack Obama has said he wants to make the economy and energy reform his first two priorities from the White House, with health care reform a near third. But the public’s enthusiasm for new presidents traditionally wanes in the second year, creating some urgency to make early moves.

Stark’s comment will surely raise the eyebrows of Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), both of whom are currently working on comprehensive health reform plans to take up next year. The two powerful lawmakers were probably banking on Obama to expend some of his precious political capital on some version of a major health reform bill. If Stark is right about the timing, the question will be: How far will that political capital go?

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