WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Negotiators plan to press ahead to resolve differences between the U.S. House and Senate versions of healthcare reform, a White House spokesman said.
"(Some) of the issues that we've had to deal with are fiscal issues, the fact that healthcare is costing too much for companies and for small businesses," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday during a media availability. "The best way to address our fiscal issues in the short term (is) through changing the cost curve of what the federal government and what state and local governments are paying for healthcare, and to ensure that people (have) accessible coverage that businesses can afford."
President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats and administration officials have been meeting to iron out differences between the two bills so Congress can act on a final bill that would reform the U.S. health insurance system.
The special election in Massachusetts to fill the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat is becoming a dogfight, with some polls showing Republican state Sen. Scott Brown leading state Attorney General Martha Coakley heading into Tuesday's vote. Election of Coakley, a Democrat, is seen as critical to the party because a Brown victory would give Republicans the 41 Senate votes they need to filibuster healthcare reform.
But Gibbs refused to say Democrats have stepped up their efforts to pass healthcare reform quickly.
"The plan to get healthcare passed is to continue to do what we're doing in ironing out the differences between the House and Senate," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said negotiators hoped to finish working on the bill "as soon as we can."