With just one Republican siding with Democrats the Senate Finance Committee moved health care reform a step closer to reality voting 14 to 9 to approve legislation crafted by Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. The measure must now be blended with a bill approved by the Health Committee before moving to the full Senate where it's uncertain whether the leadership can get the 60 votes needed to end debate on the bill.
Even if that happens, the Senate and House will have to bring their versions together before a bill goes to the President's desk. Baucus says the health care bill approved Tuesday is a balanced package that deserves bipartisan support. However there are a number of unresolved issues including a disagreement between the two chambers on how to pay for the legislation.
The bill approved Tuesday would cost about $829 billion dollars over the next 10 years and expand Medicaid and create new health insurance exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office says about 94% of the legal population would have coverage under the bill - compared with about 83% today. The bill would prevent insurers from denying people coverage for pre-existing medical conditions or dropping customers once they become ill. All Americans would be required to obtain insurance.
The bill would be paid for largely by reducing the growth of spending in Medicare and by levying new taxes on high-cost insurance plans and various sectors of the health care industry.