Dems ease impact of health bill, big advance nears
WASHINGTON – Fearing a backlash, Democrats smoothed the impact of sweeping health care legislation on working-class families Thursday night and steered President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority toward a crucial Senate advance. The most far-reaching overhaul in decades aims to protect millions who have unreliable coverage or none at all.
Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee attacked the bill as riddled with tax increases that violated Obama’s campaign promises, but failed to remove any of them.
After marathon public debate, agreement by the committee is all but certain for the legislation, although no final vote was expected until next week. That formality — Democrats hold a 13-10 majority on the panel — will clear the way for the full Senate to begin work on the measure at mid-month. story from:
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
/—The Senate Finance Committee narrowly passed an amendment Thursday from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that moves the conservative panel as close as it will likely get to a public health insurance option.
The amendment creates a “federally funded, non-Medicaid, state plan which combines the innovation and quality of private sector competition with the purchasing power of the states,” according to an overview.
It would be available to people with incomes above Medicaid eligibility but below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — a very narrow window. However, Republicans fear — and progressives hope — that once the plan becomes law there will be pressure to expand it.
The plan would not be free. It is based on Washington state’s Basic Health plan, which costs roughly 60 dollars a month, with the remainder of the premium subsidized by the state.
Private insurers would be eligible to participate in the plan, as would HMOs or other networks of health care providers.
The amendment has been gathering steam all week and was the subject of an extended private session of the finance committee Thursday afternoon before the vote, chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said.
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