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Senators Attempt to Add Amendments to Health Reform Bill

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, December 1, 2009

The first of what will be days of lengthy debate on the Senate floor started Monday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at the beginning of the five-hour session promising late nights and even Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month of December—or however long it takes to complete the reform bill, he said.

"Nothing can be more important that this," he said in the opening minutes of the Senate session. "The next few weeks will tell us a lot about whether senators are more committed to solving problems or creating them."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) followed Reid on the Senate floor by saying that "Americans don't want this bill to pass ... all surveys indicate that," he said. "Most people will see insurance premiums go up. That's not what American people are working for, and it's certainly not reform."

McConnell proposed alternative measures to the current healthcare bill, such as getting "rid of junk lawsuits," stronger healthcare fraud and abuse prevention efforts, and improving ways for smaller businesses to purchase insurance through groups or across state lines.

The first amendments also were presented on Monday. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced what she called an amendment to increase preventive health services for women "at little or no cost to the patients." She explained that it would be equivalent to giving all insured individuals "access to the same preventive services" available at the federal level for employees.

The amendment does not mandate screening protocols, for instance, such as mammograms. That needs to be discussed between patient and physician, she said. However, the amendment focuses on eliminating "one of the major barriers to accessing care—cost—by getting rid of high copays and high deductibles," she said. "This amendment is important because it will save money and save lives by reducing the top diseases killing women today."

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