US Senate panel approves healthcare bill

The United States Senate Committee on Finance approved a proposal to reform health care on Tuesday, clearing it to move forward. The bill passed by a 14-9 vote, gaining support from the committee’s thirteen Democrats, and one Republican.

Senator Olympia Snowe was the only senator from the Republican party to back the bill. However, she said this might change as the bill moves through Congress.

“There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey. My vote today is my vote today. It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow,” Snowe said.

President Barack Obama, who supports the bill as part of his effort to overhaul the country’s health care system, welcomed the committee’s vote. “We are closer than ever before to passing healthcare reform but we are not there yet. Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back – now is the time to dig in further and get this done. In this final phase we should engage with each other with civility and seriousness that has brought us this far and that this subject deserves.”

The bill, which contains a ten-year plan with an estimated cost of US$829 billion, is aimed at lowering healthcare costs and increasing the affordability of insurance. Proponents will now seek to merge it with another bill from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus emphasized, “Americans want us to craft a package that will get the 60 votes needed to pass.” He argued that the Finance bill was the best candidate to attract needed the centrist support.

Critics, however, have said that the proposed plan is too costly, and will cause the government to interfere too much into the private healthcare sector.

“We can now see clearly that the bill continues its march leftward,” said the senior Republican on the committee, Senator Charles Grassley. “This bill is already moving on a slippery slope to more government control of healthcare.”

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