U.S. Senate HELP Panel First to Report out Health Reform Measure

July 15, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A U.S. Senate committee has approved a health care reform measure with a price tag of $1 trillion over 10 years that is expected to be joined with reform legislation from other Congressional panels.

A Reuters news report said the 13-to-10 party-line vote on Wednesday by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, represented the first Congressional panel to finish and report out a health reform bill. Four other Congressional committees are also preparing health reform proposals.

Reuters said the HELP panel’s version of the Affordable Health Choices Act  sets out to expand coverage to much of the 46 million uninsured Americans, adds a government-run health care program, mandates that most Americans obtain health insurance, and requires most employers to provide it to their workers (see House Committee Chairs Unveil Latest Health Reform Plan ).

U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, (D-Connecticut) sat as acting chair of the HELP panel for chairman Senator Edward Kennedy who is being treated for brain cancer.

The senior Republican on the panel, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, called the bill “a prescription for failure.” He complained that Republicans were shut out of the drafting process. “If America is going to believe in what we do, this cannot be a bill just put together by one side,” Enzi asserted, according to Reuters.

Three House committees are to start work this week on health reform and the Senate finance panel, which has jurisdiction over how to pay for health care, is expected to begin debate next week.