Olympia Snowe gives healthcare reform its first Republican vote
The Senate Finance Committee passed its healthcare bill Tuesday along party lines – with the exception of Olympia Snowe's vote. But her comments suggest that the bill will be difficult to pass on the Senate floor.
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Affordability surfaced as an unexpectedly tough issue for Democrats after insurers released a new report projecting that health insurance costs for a typical American family would be $20,700 higher from 2010 to 2019 under the Senate Finance plan than if Congress failed to act.
“The bill imposes hundreds of billions of dollars in new healthcare taxes and provides an incentive for people to wait until they are sick to purchase coverage,” said Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which commissioned the study.
Pressed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to comment on this study, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said that CBO had scored the impact of proposed legislation on the federal budget, but not on the national health expenditures.
Although CBO has done such estimates in scoring past healthcare bills, “the scope of this bill is so much broader” that there was not sufficient time to complete the analysis, he said.
The AHIP report gave Republicans new grist to make a stand on affordability on the Senate floor. The Finance bill proposes spending $829 billion over the next 10 years, including $461 billion in subsidies, and paying for it with the biggest cuts in Medicare history ($404 billion), yet only insures about 10 percent more Americans, said Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance panel.
“This is going to be merged with a totally partisan bill, then with whatever the House does. It’s going downhill from here,” he said, after the vote.
“We have one brave soul who voted to get the [healthcare] bill out of the Finance Committee. We’ve had no cooperation on one of the most important issues facing this country,” he said on the floor after the vote.
Olympia Snowe's independent streak
Her vote today was part of a career spent following her own judgment – and often breaking party lines to do it.
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