WASHINGTON BUREAU — Sen. Susan Collins says she might support the Senate Finance Committee health bill, if major changes are made.

If Collins, R-Maine, backed the bill, she would become only the second Republican to do so. Her state-mate, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, broke away from Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee and voted Tuesday to approve the chairman’s mark of the America’s Healthy Future Act bill.

The bill draft was reported out with a tally of 14-9, with all Democrats supporting it and all Republicans but Snowe opposing it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is now in the process of combining the bill with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee health bill and preparing to reconcile it with whatever health bill comes out of the House.

The AHFA bill draft approved by the Finance Committee “represents a substantial improvement over the costly and flawed alternative approved by the Senate Health Committee as well as the House bills,” Collins says in a statement.

But the Finance panel bill falls short of providing access to affordable health care for all Americans, and one problem is that implementing it as written could force many Americans to pay more for health care than they already pay, Collins says.

“I am hopeful that many improvements will continue to be made to produce a bill that can achieve bipartisan support,” Collins says.

The “goal should be legislation that protects affordable health care choices, safeguards Medicare, and reduces costs to the consumer and the taxpayer especially at a time when we simply cannot afford to pay more,” Collins says.

To win her support, a health reform measure should provide “more, not fewer, choices of affordable coverage options,” she says.

Drafters also should eliminate bill provisions that could lead to “onerous financial penalties for small businesses that are already struggling to provide affordable health insurance to their employees,” Collins says.

“As structured, the bill actually could discourage small businesses from adding more jobs,” Collins says.

She also says she has concerns about a privision that would cut more than $500 billion in Medicare payments, and that she would like to see the bill do more to contain costs.