Congress plods away on healthcare measures

July 31, 2009 at 8:24 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) -- A U.S. House panel gave a nod to a public healthcare insurance option, voting to defeat a Republican effort to strip the bill of a government-run plan.

By a 35-24 vote Thursday, and amid Republican criticism, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pushed ahead with healthcare reform that includes a public health option sought by President Barack Obama, The New York Times said.

"Our constituents should have the choice of a public plan," Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., said. "There is nothing to be scared of here. No one will be forced into the public plan."

However, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said the public option would provide the opening to "a government takeover of our healthcare system."

Also on Thursday, the committee voted to allow health plans to determine whether they would cover abortions, stipulating insurers use money from private sources to pay for the procedures, the Times said.

In the Senate, five of six members of a bipartisan group negotiating a compromise healthcare proposal told reporters Thursday they were committed to achieving a deal, but legislation was unlikely before the Senate leaves on its August recess.

"We are committed to find a bipartisan solution as expeditiously as possible," said Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

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