Senate Democrats Make Health Reform Proposal

June 10, 2009 ( - Senate Democrats have unveiled a U.S. health care reform plan that calls for sweeping insurance market reforms and prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions.

The bill from Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) is one of at least three major health care proposals in Congress, which Reuters says Democrats hope will lead to landmark legislation that can be sent to President Barack Obama to sign into law by October. The Kennedy panel will hold a public drafting session on the bill next week, an aide said, according to Reuters.

The proposal comes after President Obama sent a letter to Kennedy and Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), the chairman of the Finance Committee, laying out his expectations for reform (see Obama Makes Suggestions on Health Care Reform ). Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Baucus’ committee   are developing similar proposals (see “Change” May Include Employer-sponsored Programs ).

The House and Senate bills would establish a kind of clearinghouse, in which individuals andsmall business es could shop for insurance. Democratic lawmakers want a new public insurance program to be an option offered in the exchange, saying it is the only way to ensure cost containment and low premiums. Republicans and insurers argue that would drive insurance companies out of business and lead to a government-run U.S. healthcare system.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill are expected to include a requirement for individuals and businesses to obtain insurance, but a Senate aide said some details of the requirement still need to be worked out in the Senate bill, according to the news report.