July 15th, 2009
12:47 PM ET
9 years ago

Health care overhaul clears split Senate committee

WASHINGTON (CNN) - One of several proposals to overhaul the U.S. health care system passed a Senate committee Wednesday, with its ailing chairman praising the $600 billion plan as a step toward his longtime goals.

The 13-10 vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee split along party lines, with its top Republican arguing it costs too much and would ration care to Americans. But Sen. Edward Kennedy, its chairman, said, "We have done the hard work that the American people sent us here to do."

"We know, however, that our work is not over - far from it," Kennedy, who is battling cancer and voted by proxy, said in a written statement. "As we move from our committee room to the Senate floor, we must continue the search for solutions that unite us, so that the great promise of quality affordable health care for all can be fulfilled."

Health care has long been one of the Massachusetts Democrat's pet issues. Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who led the committee in Kennedy's absence, said the bill is the first of several proposals "to grapple with the issue that has defied resolution through seven presidents and many Congresses since the 1940s."

It is also one of President Barack Obama's top legislative goals, and the bill that cleared Kennedy's committee closely tracks the framework Obama has outlined for a health care bill. It includes a government-run health insurance program that would compete with private insurers, requires companies with more than 25 employees to provide health coverage for their workers and sets up an "exchange" that would let people choose among a variety of insurance options.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported it would cost $615 billion over 10 years, far less than estimates for other legislation. But the estimate did not include the cost of a proposed expansion of the federally funded Medicaid system for low-income families, which could add several hundred billion to the overall tab.

Sen. Mike Enzi, the health committee's top Republican, called the measure "a prescription for failure." He said the real cost would be about $1 trillion, and the measure would drive up cost and ration health care on lines similar to Britain.

Under the British health-care system, "The older you are, the longer you have to wait to see a doctor, the longer you have to wait for tests, the longer you have to wait to get treatment," said Enzi, of Wyoming. "The people die. That's not the system we'll buy in America."

Obama and top congressional Democrats met Monday to discuss how to pay for a sweeping health care overhaul. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee is working on another health care bill, and Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives released their own proposal Tuesday.

In a statement issued after the health committee vote, Obama said that measure "would offer Americans quality, affordable health care that is there when they need it."

"When this proposal is combined with other proposals that the Senate Finance Committee is working on, it's estimated that health reform will cover 97 percent of all Americans," Obama said. "The HELP committee's success should give us hope, but it should not give us pause. It should instead provide the urgency for both the House and Senate to finish their critical work on health reform before the August recess."

Filed under: Health care • President Obama • Ted Kennedy
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Ohio

    Has anyone READ the bill???????? I doubt it. This will bankrupt America forever.

    July 15, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. Obama=disaster

    I would love to see the treatment plan Kennedy would be receiving if her were on this health care plan. He would have been told to go home and die. All the politicians should be forced to give up their private plans and go on the Universal health care plan. Obama promised we could all be on his plan, where is that option? That was just one of many Obama lies that the sucker punched voters fell for!

    July 15, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    The U.S. ranking of 37th in the world is a disgrace and needs to be fixed. I am not a proponent of employer mandated healthcare, but if it is used as a step towards the healthcare system Congress has, then we need to go for it. We need to be competing with the number one health care system, not number 36. I don't know if there is any good in our current system worth salvaging. If someone knows of something, please post it.

    July 15, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    $600 billion – $1 trillion is substantially less than the initial bill of $1.6 trillion. Sen. Enzi's suggestion that this is a prescription for failure is beyond me. I don't understand his rationale of thinking this will drive cost up when it's sole purpose is to do the opposite.

    July 15, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. katiec

    Well, we all know the republicans will continue to try and destroy health care reform but think there is enough involvement, support from the American people that they will not be able to pull it off.
    Go to ussenators.com and e mail your support.
    All politicians need to know we will no longer allow or tolerate big business, lobbyists, special interests run our country and make crucial decisions for us. We must also let them know we demand
    their support in the welfare of the American people.
    Public option is a must. Without it health care reform will be a farce and, once again, the raping of the American people.

    July 15, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    A while back the Republicans complained about the Canadian health care system, and the Canadian health minister said they were telling lies and distortions. He had the facts and figures to back up his claims. Is Mike Enzi telling the truth about the British system, or is he spreading more Republican lies? Has any reader in the British system experienced what he is talking about?

    July 15, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. cd

    Well, good............ He / They need to be exposed........

    So many lives for NOTHING...........

    July 15, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. Kevin B

    It is great to see progress being made on this hugely important issue, the fear mongering and whinning from the GOP will not work this time. The american people are tired of insurance companies profiting off of the misery of american families who are not covered or under covered.

    If the GOP would align themselves with the middle class on this common sense issue instead of the insurance industry and big pharma , just maybe they will begin to be taken seriously by the voters again.

    unfortunatly this will not happen.

    July 15, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. Deborah/Kansas City

    I hope he lives to see part of his life's work come true. I remember as a young girl, Ted Kennedy calling for healthcare as a right, and not a priveledge, for all Americans.

    July 15, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Sen. Enzi also suggest that this bill will ration out care. What this bozo fails to realize is that majority of physicians and specialists perform procedures that aren't necessary. I know this because I work in a mdical billing office. If you go see a physical therapist for a hand injury, the only procedures that need to be done to you are:

    -evaluation, ultrasound, therapeutic exercise, manual therapy

    But in most cases, the patient is treated for the above procedures, plus: Hot or cold packs, paraffin baths, electrical stimulation. These procedures aren't aren't necessary yet you get billed for them. So if that's his definition of rationing out care, then who cares? Alot of procedures done in any medical office are luxuries and not necessities.

    July 15, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. Kelby In Houston, TX

    It's out of comittee and on to the floor. Now we will see how successful the Healthcare lobby was at turning our Senators against us. Is it the will of the American people or a special interest group trying to save its own skin and protect its profit margins.
    I truly hope the will of the people be done

    July 15, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. Really!?

    The health care reform. Reforms nothing. It just thrusts the government in control of health care plans and decisions.

    July 15, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. barbara

    I dont like rationed care, I do not want to lose my employer backed health care and this is exactly what will happen if my employer is given the chance to SAVE money. All will be forced into state run care for the sake of a few million who choose not to be covered or work for an employer that doesnt provide care or are an illegal immigrant. look at california. why are they in such dire starights? well one of the manin reasons is that they continue to give give and give to illegal immigrants without getting back! in SC we soent more than 184 MILLION dollars in just one year on social services to illegal immigranst and did these same immigrants give anything back to the state ? NO. That is one of the main reasons why we are losing the price war in health care. we spend millions every year and in every state proividing medical care to those that are not even here legally and we, the taxpayer, arent supposed to complain about it? we pay for theiur care and yet cant afford to care for our own selves? im sorry but i am more important to me than an illegal immigrant is to me and i want my tax money to pay for My care and no one elses.

    July 15, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. David

    As a physician, I would like to thank these Senators for their leadership in moving health care reform forward. The system is desperately in need of change and too many of my patients face an uncertain future if we don't fix it. This bill will go a long way toward ensuring that everyone has access to affordable health insurance and give people the choice they deserve between the private insurance they have or a public health insurance plan if they prefer. That choice is essential if we want keep insurance companies honest and make them compete on quality..

    July 15, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  15. Terry, Butte, MT

    Comparing our system to Britains? Good choice Sen Enzi (R-Wy).

    Britain – 18th
    USA – 37th

    Life Expectancy:
    Britain – 14th
    USA – 24th
    Your arguement is totally blown away by the FACTS!!!!

    Price per Capita:
    USA – 1st – YEAH!!!! WE PAY THE MOST!!!!!
    Britain – 41st

    Sen. Enzi, Your rebuttal to the facts? Oh yeah, you only have scare tactics. Just like your entire Republican Party.

    Thank god for facts.

    July 15, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  16. Tee in NC

    Let the GVT deal and resolve the issues with the programs they already control (Welfare, Education, Social Security, Budgets, etc) before creating a health plan for all Americans that will fail. I have NO fail in any of our so call leaders

    Once those programs are up and running smoothly then I might be on board when it comes to health care.....until then NO GVT provided heath plan.

    July 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. Mark of Saint Louis

    Now is not the time for radical reform. Take small steps and do it right. I guess Obama and the Libs don't want to do it right.

    July 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. European-American

    If Sen. Kennedy was on the proposed healthcare plan, he would not be ailing – he would not be alive.

    July 15, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. Bob in Pa

    That's right Ted, "we must continue the search for solutions that unite us, so that the great promise of quality affordable health care for all can be fulfilled."

    We shouldn't be bringing a heaping pile to the Senate floor. We should keep looking. Doing something just for tha sake of doing it is not the answer.

    July 15, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. Scott, Tucson

    And it was Kennedy that inserted the exclusion clause for members of Congress to keep their own health care system while forcing this garbage don't the American people throats.

    July 15, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. GI Joe

    We"re watching. A lot of people are running for re-election next year.

    They vote this year, we vote next year. Just works out that way sometimes.

    When is Ensign going to Resign?

    July 15, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. Haily

    Yes, finally some progress.

    July 15, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  23. Dan Holiday

    Here is an idea...how about be responsible for yourselves? Ever thought of that? Why is it that democrats think it is the governments duty to provide everything for them? Free health care, free mortgage relief, free this and that. Do you guys have any pride? I mean don't you feel bad mooching off of the system all of the time? It is embarrassing to read how all of you feel it is a right to have things handed to you. I guess you don't care since people with jobs actually are the ones having to pay for your sorry selves. Just a little F.Y.I. here...if you penalize success (tax) and promote failure (support with programs), your system will collapse. The people that actually create things and make money will leave and you will have to start providing for yourselves since the government will have no one to tax. Get a education, get a job, make money, provide for yourself and your family. That is the American way. Unlike your President's idiot wife I can honestly say I have always love this country. It is just in the past few years that I am beginning to despise it's wasteful, lazy, welfare attitude citizens. Either start acting like adults, or get out of my country. We don't need you here anymore ruining the lives of the citizens that take responsibility.

    July 15, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  24. Fair is Fair

    Ahhhhhhh yes... Senators Kennedy and Dodd. Inspiration for the all-new McWaitress Sandwich being test marketed in MA, CT, and DC.

    Hey Teddy, be honest for the first time in your life, if possible. Hypothetically speaking, will a citizen on the public option, diagnosed with brain cancer, be able to go to Duke Medical to receive the same treatment that you did?

    Bueller??? Bueller???? Bueller?????

    July 15, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  25. Laverne

    I think it is ridiculous for the republicans or any American person to think we can achieve healthcare, energy or anything else without paying for it and this probably can't and won't be achieved without raising taxes. We can't just keep talking about it, and saying it can't be done. I know everybody is worried about the future and the burden this will place on the next generation, but if we don't do something NOW, the next generation will be in even worst shape. It is no longer good enough to just say NO!

    July 15, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
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