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. Four and The Door

    If the democrats pass another obcenely expensive partisan bill and get the same lousy results as we have seen so far ( i.e., GM, Chrysler, Wall Street, Stimulus, on and on ), the Republican party will enjoy a landslide in 2012 like we have never seen before. It will be much more definative than this 60% " landslide" that brought this administration in.

    July 15, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. Felly

    It's about time we had a Universal Heath Care bill, forget the Grand Party of no.

    July 15, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. bj

    Every elected or appointed federal official should be required to sign on to the government run health plan, and pay the same as everyone else. One way to help pay for it would be to cancel any retirement benefits for all federal employees, and let them draw social security.

    (I see that Kennedy got his gin soaked butt in on this idiocy).

    July 15, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  4. jeremy.....Dallas...Texas

    Its wrong and complete idiocy for a senator to allege that British laws are designed to kill elderly sick citizens. Let us solve our mess without accusing other countries. Already Canada wrote a protest letter to GOP to stop malicious tv lies about its health care which is truly better than the frauds we got here.

    July 15, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. Matt

    This Health Care bill is the biggest scam in History.

    All the democrats who vote for it should be removed from office.

    July 15, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  6. A. Goodwin

    Good! I am so glad that our president is committed to its citizens rather than the Health Care industry. We need healthcare for all...not for the elite who can afford it. Mike Enzi talks negatively about the program due to $$...but, I betcha he was in favor of bailing out the banks or for the war!

    Scare tactics from the GOP are not going to work this time around. To many people suffer without healthcare coverage. How many people have died because they simply couldn't afford being seen by a Dr.? Yet people like Enzi worry that people will have to wait? I would rather wait and be seen than die because I cannot afford it.

    July 15, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Johnny DC

    This Liberal Congress and Administration are only concerned with stamping their place in history. There's a reason seven presidencies and dozens of congresses have not acted on health care reform – because it is a terrible idea.

    There is a time to make history, and a time to let history run its own course. Too bad this country is headed for disaster.

    July 15, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  8. Steph

    Look at that, the party of no says no again. Shocking!

    July 15, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. Joyce in South Carolina

    I just returned from a trip to Great Britian. I had very lengthy conversations with several people there, who are very happy with their health care. I spoke with one gentleman, who told me of the fabulous care that his elderly mother had received while dealing with terminal cancer. She was provided with everything she needed.....treatments, medical equipment, medications, etc. and even nursing care.

    When my husband and I were in our early 60's, we were in a situation of being unable to afford health insurance. My husband had a "pre-existing" condition (had a heart catherization showing no problems) and the cost for him alone would have been over $2000.00 a month. So for over 2 years, we had no insurance.......luckily nothing happened. It was pretty scary, to say the least. We feel very fortunate to have Medicare. I am behind the Democratics 100%.......The Republican party of "No Way – No How" will never do anything about it.

    Hooray for President Obama!!!!!

    July 15, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. Obama: A change U can beleive In

    The GOP the party of No because they are sore loser on Nov 4th is doing everything they can to stop Obama's plan. Yeah the GOP now complaining about " Oh, the democrat are not being bi-partisan", when President Obama as invited them over to the white house more in 6 months, then bush ever did. All the GOP want is our country to fail, because they don't like the fact that a black man is running the country. NOW!! tell me how my a– taste.

    July 15, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  11. Fla.

    It is the same ol' fear-mongering from Sen. Enzi and his predictable Party of No.

    The majority in America wants a public option to increase competition, expand affordable coverage, and improve overall care.

    Keep up the great work, Senate!

    July 15, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  12. JP

    It's time for hard working people making a good living to work their way backward, lest be caught up in some outrageous unfair taxation. Looks like it’s sinful to be successful.

    July 15, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  13. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Yes we can and yes we will.Go sit and cry on the sidelines all those that that for years have voted against it.The majority of real Americans have spoken.

    July 15, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. Peter

    Why do some people fight against healthcare overhaul is it because the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries product demand is primarily driven by the willingness of insures to pay for new medical treatments? again is it ethical when these same guys buy out generic companies not to release their affordable products in the market?. Here the looser are Peter the jobless, Joe the plumber, Nancy the dishwasher, whittiker the taxi driver! remember few weeks ago cnn reported that 72% of the American population has not college degree therefore they earn less or they have no jobs at all those are the voiceless people who needs the healthcare reform more than anyone else, its a shame with the Americans abundant wealth, the health care is ranked # 36 in the world according to WHO. Wake up America and say no to those fat cats fighting for what is rightfully yours!! AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE its your RIGHT!

    July 15, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  15. Allison

    I expect the Republicans to dig their heels in deep when it comes to a new Healthcare plan. The're all rich and don't seem to have a care in the world when it comes to the needs of common folk. The Republican party has become so out-of-touch with mainstream America. The people of this great nation deserve better!!

    July 15, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  16. Tom

    Reform and Affordability?? Try simply passing the buck to other Americans to pay for it all. Tax tax tax tax. Oh, and if you'd rather not buy health insurance for whatever reason, the government will tax you 2.5% of your income. You will buy it, or else, say Nanny Government.

    Instead of truly trying to reform the system, like allowing residents of one state to buy insurance from an out-of-state company (why is this illegal in the first place?), tort reform, and a crack-down on Medicare fraud, we're allowing the government to simply pass the cost on to our neighbors.

    No, I know many people loathe 'the rich' but on paper, in 2010, a person making $1 million a year, living in California will be subject to a 38% federal income tax, a 6.2% FICA tax, a 5.4% health-care tax, an 11% CA state income tax, and a 1.2% state medical tax. That is 61.8% of their income, making them a slave to the government.

    Is this what the Delcaration of Independence was about? Remember, that document describing the abuses of King George and the British government? Is this what the Constitution is about, that document limiting the powers of the government and championing individual rights?

    Very sad.

    July 15, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  17. aware

    Just say "NO" America! I've been there and done that, and it will be a disaster! 😦

    July 15, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  18. Melissa

    Very good.

    July 15, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  19. Obama=disaster

    What a bunch of baloney they are trying to serve us. All sounds great doesn't it? Too bad they are empty words. Reducing the estimate to sucker everyone into thinking it won't cost that much. If they know what they are doing, Why is Medicare almost bankrupt? Medicare is crappy and they want all of us to be on a program even worse than that. When will you brain dead wake up and realize quality over quantity? It's not FREE. The politicians should be working on affordable and available health care coverage where everyone pays their own premiums if they choose to be covered. Problem is, most here want health care, but they don't want to pay for it, they want everyone else to pay for them.

    July 15, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. J.S.

    Light bulb on! Let's let the President and his family and the members of Congress try out this plan first–If it's so wonderful, then the rest of the country can vote on whether they want nationalized healthcare or not

    July 15, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  21. RI Moderate

    The true rate of taxation is the rate of expenditure.

    Sorry, grandkids (and great grandkids). Our generation just didn't have the discipline to keep this country great.

    July 15, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. JP

    What happens if your current employer decides to join the government run program? You have two options:
    1. Quit the job and look for a new job with employers still offering your current plan
    2. Wait for some committee to decide on a wait period for your treatment

    July 15, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  23. liz

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling. So don't take the time to read the 1000 page healthcare reform bill and don't figue how how to pay for it. It has to be passed!!!!

    July 15, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  24. jaye

    Our country desperately needs healthcare for everyone....and anyone that votes against this bill should be ousted from office.
    Stop the wars and we'll have plenty of money to cover healthcare.

    July 15, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. Mike in MN

    Again Obama wants to rush through legislation before the American people have a chance to understand the details. Not the transparant administration he promised. He wants all this major legislation rushed because he knows the majority of the American people would see it all stinks if they had a chance to know what is in it.
    It will take decades to unravel the mess Obama is raming down our throats.
    By 2012 voters will have a chance to taste what was forced down their throats. It will make them puke. Obama will be one term.

    July 15, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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