June 23rd, 2009
07:08 PM ET
14 years ago

Negotiators whittle down Senate health care bill


WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate negotiators have cut about $400 billion from a $1.6 trillion health reform proposal, but that still leaves them short of their targeted price goal of about $1 trillion, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, told reporters Tuesday.

"The price has come down quite markedly but we still have a lot of work to do. This is a challenging legislative set of considerations," Conrad said. "It's hard."

Conrad is one of a handful of bipartisan Finance Committee members who are meeting regularly in closed-door sessions to try to hammer out an agreement. Getting the price tag down to about $1 trillion is key to getting a bill passed, they say.

Conrad wouldn't give details about the cuts, except to say they are coming from "a wide array of places." He said some of the biggest savings came by changing the amount of the subsidies the uninsured would get to help purchase insurance.

He said despite the cuts in subsidies the Finance Committee bill would still provide insurance coverage for 96 percent of all Americans.

Monday night, senators and aides said that negotiations over using health-insurance co-ops as an alternative to a government-run health plan had hit an impasse over how much the federal government should be involved in creating and running the co-ops.

Most Democrats want a heavy federal presence to ensure the co-ops can adequately compete with the big insurers and help drive down costs, but Republicans say they will back co-ops only if the touch from Washington is very light. Republicans say anything more that that is akin to the government-run proposal they uniformly reject.

Despite the division over exactly how to create them, the broad co-op proposal is not dead, several sources said.

Filed under: Health care • Kent Conrad
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