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Senators Pledge Fast Action

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Key senate leaders say they want their committees to mark up health reform bills in early June.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, have written to President Obama to affirm their intention to move forward on “major health care reform” efforts this year.

“We must act swiftly, because the cost of inaction is too high for individuals, families, businesses, state and federal governments,” Kennedy and Baucus write in the letter.

The HELP and Finance committees’ bills should be similar, so that the committees can move quickly to merge the bills into a single bill, Kennedy and Baucus write.

“Comprehensive health care reform legislation will responsibly contain costs, improve quality, enhance disease prevention, and provide coverage to all Americans,” Kennedy and Baucus write. “We are committed to working with you, and with our colleagues in Congress, to enact legislation to achieve these long-overdue reforms without delay.”

Kennedy and Baucus’s plans appear to be similar to the plans of House Democratic committee leaders.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said April 1 at a meeting organized by the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., that Democrats in the House and Senate hope to have their own versions of comprehensive health reform legislation passed by the time Congress starts its summer recess in early August.

That schedule would give committee staffs time to begin work during the recess on reconciling the differences between the House and Senate bills, in an effort to complete work on health reform legislation this year.