Wed, Jan 06, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Democrats to make final push on US healthcare overhaul


A final push to deliver a sweeping healthcare overhaul to US President Barack Obama begins this week as House of Representatives Democratic leaders prepare for negotiations with the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was set to meet yesterday with House committee chairmen to map out strategy and set their priorities for landmark healthcare reform legislation that the congressional Democrats hope to deliver to Obama within weeks.

The House passed its healthcare bill on Nov. 7. The Senate passed its bill on Dec. 24. There are some significant differences between the bills that must be ironed out as Democrats merge them into a single bill that the House and Senate would have to pass before sending it to Obama to sign.

Healthcare reform is Obama’s top legislative priority. Republicans solidly oppose it and have threatened new procedural roadblocks in the Senate to slow things down.

Negotiations between the House and Senate Democrats must resolve differences between the two bills over abortion funding restrictions, new taxes to pay for the overhaul and whether to include a new government-run health insurance program.

Democrats hope to secure final congressional passage perhaps before Obama delivers the annual State of the Union address to Congress later this month or early next month.

That would allow Obama and his fellow Democrats to turn to other issues ahead of November’s congressional elections in which they will try to protect their majorities in the House and Senate. These include trying to lower the US unemployment rate and to address national security concerns.

The stakes are high for businesses, the US$2.5 trillion US healthcare industry, Democrats and Obama. Businesses that provide coverage to employees have been struggling to cope with steadily rising insurance costs. Polls show that the public is wary of the proposed overhaul and what it could mean for their household budgets and medical coverage.

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