Monday, June 22, 2009

Obama's healthcare push on rocky road in Congress

Obama's healthcare push on rocky road in Congress
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Growing worries over budget deficits and government intervention could jeopardize President Barack Obama's proposed healthcare overhaul in Congress as lawmakers bicker over costs and strategies for covering the uninsured.
Obama and his fellow Democrats, who control Congress, have enormous political capital invested in succeeding at providing affordable medical coverage to the millions of uninsured Americans, after decades of failed efforts by others, including the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton.
But opposition is building even as a group of senators tries this week to negotiate a proposal they hope will quiet critics and win bipartisan support.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said he was confident he could craft such a bill.
"We're working together and we're getting closer and closer to a deal every day," he said in a statement. "I'm as confident as ever we'll deliver a bipartisan health care reform bill to the President this year."
But Baucus is working with only few Republicans and there are no guarantees he will succeed.
"I'm certainly willing to try to do something and do it right, but we're a long way from that," Republican Senator Orrin Hatch told reporters.
Public drafting sessions by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee have been marked by partisan bickering over costs and the role of the government.
Democrats want a new government plan to compete with insurance companies and "keep them honest." Republicans say that would drive insurers out of business and lead to a government-run healthcare system.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, a member of the health committee, said in a Senate speech last week the bill was "so flawed and expensive it cannot be fixed."
Americans strongly support fundamental healthcare changes and a move to create a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published on Saturday.
The U.S. healthcare system is the world's costliest, but 46 million Americans lack insurance coverage to pay for medical care. The United States also lags other nations on important health measures, such as life expectancy and infant mortality.
But other recent polls show that eye-popping budget deficits, an estimated $1.8 trillion this year and $1.4 trillion next year, are giving Americans pause about Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan and government intervention in business following the banking and auto industry bailouts.
"I think the American people have really woke up to the fact that there is runaway spending going on," Representative Dave Camp, the top Republican on the tax writing House Ways and Means Committee, said in an interview. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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