Democrats in the US House of Representatives on Friday rolled out their first draft of a vast plan to reform healthcare coverage, one of President Barack Obama's top legislative goals.
The proposals would allow Americans to choose between business and government-backed healthcare insurance, a bid to provide coverage for the estimated 46 million people currently uninsured -- around 15 percent of the population.
According to House Democrats their proposals would cover 95 percent of population. Three House committees will discuss the measures -- which run to 852 pages -- in the coming days.
"A final version should be ready by the end of July," according to Representative Henry Waxman, who heads the House energy and commerce committee,and is likely to be a key figure as the proposals traverse Congress.
"This is just a a beginning but it's a good beginning," he said.
The White House welcomed the move as "a major step toward the our goal of fixing what is broken about health care while building on what works."
Democrats said they would now work with the Congressional Budget Office to calculate just how much the plan would cost US taxpayers.
Initial estimates put the 10-year cost at one billion dollars, a price many Republican lawmakers have balked at.
They have also criticized the government expanded role in the sector, which they claim impinges on the private sector.
Waxman rejected those claims: "Some people think it's going to be government takeover of health care, a single-payer system. That's not what we intend. We want to give people a chance to choose."
On the other side of Congress, Senate Democrats, led by Edward Kennedy -- brother of John and Robert -- set forth their proposals last week.