WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Senate committee began the arduous work Thursday of debating and amending the first comprehensive health care bill to come before Congress this year.
The measure before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is one of at least four expected proposals for overhauling America's ailing health care system.
At issue is how to best reduce the cost and increase the reach of the current health care system, which officials say is increasingly draining personal, corporate and government budgets while leaving 46 million Americans without health insurance.
President Barack Obama has made the issue a top priority, warning that failure to act now would bring far worse economic difficulties than the costs of plans under discussion.
Both parties in Congress agree on the need to slow the increase in health care costs while ensuring that all Americans can get health insurance, but they differ sharply on how to proceed.
Democrats generally favor a government-funded public option to compete with private insurers. Republicans say such a step would lead to a government takeover of health care, which they would oppose.
The parties agree on several principles, including an emphasis on preventive care, cost-cutting measures in the existing Medicare and Medicaid programs, and a halt to denials of coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.
While the Senate HELP Committee began its work, the Senate Finance Committee has delayed its consideration of a similar measure because of uncertainties over the overall costs.
A Congressional Budget Office preliminary analysis this week said portions of the Senate HELP committee bill it has reviewed would cost $1 trillion over the next 10 years while reducing the number of the uninsured - currently 46 million - by just 16 million.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group made up of former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, Howard Baker and Bob Dole has offered an outline for an alternative plan intended to overcome the deep party divisions.
The proposal by the Bipartisan Policy Center called for a budget-neutral plan that would include taxing some employer-provided health care benefits for workers.
The plan stopped short of an outright government-funded public health care option, but called for various forms of government assistance to help make coverage more affordable and available. It also called for requiring all Americans to have health care.
Both taxing health care benefits and the lack of a public option go against stated Democratic positions, while the mandate for individual coverage is opposed by Republicans.
@girlymen love the GOP – and you're probably one of the ones that's looking for a healthcare "handout" because you're either either too illiterate or too lazy to obtain a good job that has healthcare benefits. I'm sick of having to pay for you lazy people and the illegal immigrants that sneak into this country to have their babies AT TAXPAYERS' expense. If he wants healthcare reform, stop illegal immigrants, among others, from getting free healthcare!
The last thing we need is Obama tinkering with our healthcare too. Dump the proposal in the trash.
The private health industry has failed already! Doing more of the same will just be a bigger failure! And more expensive! Americans spend over $2 trillion EVERY YEAR to private companies whose bureacurats decide your health depending on how much profit they want to squeeze out of you! We need to change the system, not just do more of the same! At least government run healthcare would be taxation WITH representation. And they aren't running it for profit!
I just hope Nobama doesn;t screw with what I presently have. I pay for my health insurance by WORKING the same as others should do. LEAVE MY INSURANCE ALONE.
@dreamer – by reading your blog, you are a "dreamer". You obviously lack an education – too lazy or too dumb to pass? You diction and spelling leave something to be desired. You should be embarassed!
That's right TCM, the guv'ment's going to hold a gun to your head and force you to sign up. It's you that's the idiot, you and all the other right-wingers that have your thinking done for you by Lush Rimbaugh. The government health plan will be an OPTIONAL one – do you understand what OPTIONAL means? If you prefer to pay more to your provider of choice then you are free to do so – if you can grasp the concept of free choice that is. So quit with the lunatic scare stories and try thinking rationally, it's not that painful.
Yes, the government is such a failure on everything... I'm sure that's what you keep in mind when you reject government funding for clean water, construction and maintenance of highways, your police and fire departments, and of course our military! I'm sure you want to pay your neighbor a road toll each morning to drive on the road he owns. I'm sure you want the fire department to be privatized and decide whether to save your home based on profits. I'm sure you want the military be a number of competing corporations that go into countries to protect that can pay for protection.
@Darren – better to your homework on government controlled healthcare. It is NOT doing well in Canada, especially for the elder and it certainly is NOT doing well in Great Britain! Under Nobama's rule, he thinks everything should be run by him!
How come you reputhlicans don't just watch Faux News for the republican response? I'm sure you know that station will be happy to destroy anything our President proposes.
and one last thing……
EACH ONE OF YOU ARE THE MORAL EQUIVALENT OF A GUTTER SNIPE…..willing to eat anything thrown down the sewer by your party leaders. Where was all this out rage when we were spending billions in Iraq? Now we want to spend it here (on Americans) and you freak.
We need you guys to finish High School before posting comments and voting
We can no longer afford not to have the "government option" to
To many of us are sick and dying.
TCM: I've read that exact comment from you too many times and you know what? You're absolutely right. When my company fires me and sends my $15/hr job somewhere they can pay $2 for it, I should drop dead because I'm of no value (even though seconds ago my productivity was worth something like $15/hr).
And when I make $10/hr at two part-time jobs and neither offers health coverage I'm sure I've got plenty left over after rent and food and clothes for my family to afford some outstanding coverage just like real people (read: rich).
Will you please consider the notion that the market you so idolize is spun off the cliff? Care has no relationship anymore with costs, the current model is not working for too many people and the system is in need of a serious reality check.
If they pass a flawed bill we can fix it. But doing nothing won't fix anything. ObamaCare'09! :D
I keep hearing the GOP rightwingnuts say that overhauling healthcare is not an emergency. We know what Bush thought was an emergency – invading a sovereign country based on lies. We also know what he considered not an emergency – rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina. The GOP rightwingnut neocons care only about themselves and not the American people. The GOP is the party of NO and they need to get a grip, pull their heads out of their butts and stop the stupidity of Cheney/Bush/Rove/Boner/Faux news and the rest of them.
TCM June 18th, 2009 12:29 pm ET
Here's a revision….kill the bill….get a job, pay for healthcare.
Once enough people cannot buy insurance, the price of all goods and services reduce….it's the market, you idiots! Just like anything else on the market, health insurance is a product….demand dictates price. Once the government gets involved,
Geesh....TCM; you have to be the loudest idiot I've ever heard. Competition is a factor in price. If I'm selling the same service you're providing for half the price; you either lower yours or find another line of work.
Listen...were was all this outrage when we were burning up billions in the Iraqi desert? Now we are trying to spend money on real citizens of this country...all you intellectually challenged GOP'ers are having hissy fits. Go back to school and let the adults handle it from here
"The parties agree on several principles..."
Praise Jesus!! It's a start. And lookit, nobody got hurt.
So we spend a TRILLION dollars (and now CBO says it may be over $1.5 T) over 10 years to get 16 million more people insured, leaving 30 million still uninsured. Do the math, that's $62,500 per person over 10 years ($93,750 if $1.5T is the real #).
and this is Health Care reform????
Can anyone name just one single proposal being discussed that will actually cut costs? Oh that's right, WE the public will not know ANY details until this monster gets passed.
Our health system is broke, please don't make it worse
To joey from san diego:
...well there was that little incident with his brother in Florida helping him steal the Presidency. Supreme Court was a cohort.So I wouldn't go around saying that we "elected" him exactly.