Saturday 16th of January 2021

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Health Care Bill Could Be Scaled Back

The health care reform bill championed by President Obama and congressional Democrats may lose some of its bells and whistles in light of a Republican claiming the open Senate seat for Massachusetts.

Republican Scott Brown’s claiming the 60th Senate seat once held by the late Edward Kennedy cast a shadow over the health care measure. It prompted Democrats to slow down their push to get approval of their whole package despite opposition by Republicans.

Instead they scaled back efforts to focus on maintaining some of the key features in the legislation: restrict insurance companies’ ability to turn down coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, pay part of the premiums of small businesses and low-income residents, adjust Medicare so payments favor quality care instead of a wide variety of services, and let young adults remain on parents’ policies.

The president said the result of the Massachusetts race doesn’t diminish his intent to get a health care bill passed. “Now, I could have said, ‘Well, we’ll just do what’s safe, we’ll just take on those things that are completely non-controversial,’” Obama said. “The problem is the things that are non-controversial end up being the things that don’t solve the problem.”

The president pushed for Congress to come up with a new proposal with “those elements of the package that people agree on.” That could mean the intent to cover nearly all Americans may not occur within the final version of the bill.

There was diminishing support for the idea that the House quickly approve the Senate version of the bill. That would eliminate the problem in the Senate that Scott claimed a seat once held by a Democrat and get a bill to the president faster. Obama publicly asked lawmakers not to attempt to quickly push the measure through. Democratic leaders, however, were said to be checking whether liberals and moderates would support such a move.

A total of 218 votes are needed to approve legislation in the House. Most Democrats there are against the tax on costly insurance plans that appears in the Senate bill. Unions already have protested the tax, saying it targets their members. Opponents of abortion say the Senate version also doesn’t adequately limit taxpayer funding for the procedure.

As recently as last week Senate and House Democrats seemed to be settling the differences of their respective bills, giving hope that a final version of the measure was imminent. But within hours of Brown claiming victory, they went back to fighting over the differences.