Senate Committee Approves Health Care Reform Bill

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The Senate Finance Committee approved a $829 billion health care reform bill, Tuesday, setting the legislation up for a full vote in the Senate in coming weeks.

The 13 Democrats on the committee voted to support the so-called "Baucus bill." Nine of the 10 Republicans voted against it.

GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe broke ranks with her party in the vote, becoming the only Republican so far to back a Democratic health care plan.

Despite the key vote, however, health care reform still has a long way to go before it becomes law.

For more on the health care bill, CBN News spoke with Ed Haislmaier, an expert in health care policy with the Heritage Foundation.  Click play for his comments.

Before the vote came down, Senate Finance committee chairman Max Baucus quoted a founding father to push his colleagues to passing the health care reform bill.

"Ben Franklin said that 'well done is better than well said,'" Baucus began. "Well, senators, now is the time that will tell whether things are merely said or whether something is actually done."

Democrats saw the vote as historic-- providing a framework for a plan that could win 60 votes on the Senate floor.

Republicans see the bill as something entirely different. They itemize a long list of worries from higher taxes to rationed care and more government control.

"As I highlight these issues, it will be clearer that this bill is already moving on a slippery slope to more and more government control of health care," warned Sen. Charles Grassley.

The bill would extend insurance coverage to nearly all Americans, limit co-pays, and prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

But it comes with an estimated $829 billion price tag over 10 years and is paid for by cuts to Medicare providers and new taxes on insurance companies.

On the eve of the vote, the insurance industry released a report that showed the bill would raise the annual premium for a typical family of four by $4,000 a year.

They said the measure would actually drive up health care costs because the proposed penalties on Americans without insurance aren't stiff enough to force them to buy in.

"If you don't have everybody in the pool, you have a situation where people are encouraged to purchase only when they need it," said Karen Ignagni with America's Health Insurance Plans.

The White House and its allies fired back, describing the study as "hard to take seriously," "self-serving," and a "hatchet job" -- especially after the insurance lobby said this at the White House seven months ago:

"You have our commitment to play, to contribute, and to help pass health care reform this year," Ignagni said on March 5, 2009.

The last-minute rift gives Republicans more ammunition to oppose the proposals when the debate hits the Senate floor.

"We in the Congress have a duty to tackle this problem, but the solution we settle upon should not be rushed, and the solution should not be worse than the problem we are trying to solve," said Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla.

Tuesday's vote advances universal health care reform farther than it's ever come in decades, joining four other congressional committees that already produced health care legislation.

But there are major differences among all five bills that need to be ironed out -- namely the public option, supported by liberal Democrats.

It's included in every version except for the one coming out of Tuesday's committee vote.

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