Latest On American Healthcare Reforms - Senate Panel Gets Down To Work

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 24 2009 8:31 AM

On Tuesday, a key US Senate committee kick started work on its version of sweeping legislation to overhaul US health care. The panel chairman has already refused to adopt both Canadian and British approaches.

"This is a uniquely American solution. We are not Canada. We are not Britain. We are America," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana.

"Americans have a tradition of balance. We don't buy into government-only solutions," said Baucus, who opposes a government-managed "public option" favored by President Barack Obama's core Democratic supporters.

After months of wrangling vainly aimed at winning Republican support, Baucus has unveiled a 10-year overhaul plan that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says will cost about 774 billion dollars.

Obama has made overhauling US health care his top domestic priority, seeking to curb out-of-control costs and extend coverage that currently fails to reach some 47 million people in the United States.

The committee's "mark-up" -- the process of changing a bill before sending it to the full Senate -- was expected to run through Friday, with hundreds of amendments to the legislation up for debate.

"The mark before us today is a balanced, common-sense plan that takes the best ideas from both sides," said Baucus. "But I don't pretend that it's the last word."

"I'm eager to work with other Senators to make this an even better bill," he said. "The time has come to reform America's health care. The times demand nothing less."

Three House of Representatives Committees and one other Senate committee have approved their versions of the legislation, which must clear both houses before it reaches Obama's desk to be signed into law.