Senate Takes Up Healthcare Debate

Monday, November 30, 2009

Senators continued sparring along party lines as debate on sweeping healthcare legislation got underway.

The debate began after the Congressional Budget Office released new figures about the healthcare measure. Budget experts estimate the bill would cost nearly $1 trillion, but would reduce federal deficits by $130 billion over the next decade.

According to The Associated Press, the CBO also found 31 million uninsured individuals would get coverage if the bill were enacted. The legislation would be paid for through a combination of cuts in projected Medicaid payments, a payroll tax on the wealthy and a variety of other new taxes, including some on drug makers and owners of high-cost insurance.

Senate leaders traded barbs in their opening speeches. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told legislators the healthcare overhaul was the most important issue they would tackle. He also said the Senate had to "avoid the temptation to drown in distractions and distortions." Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it was "preposterous" to think the plan would save Medicare, as Reid has often stated.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports senators did not take long to start proposing amendments. They suggested changes including increasing preventative women's health services at little or no cost to patients; removing efforts to limit the growth of Medicare; and ensuring health coverage for low-income children.

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