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Senate Health Reform Bill Survives McCain Motion

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Members of the Senate today voted 42-58 to reject a motion that could have killed off H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bill.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., proposed the motion, which would have sent the bill back to the Senate Finance Committee for a rewrite of provisions relating to Medicare.

The Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for the McCain motion are Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. James Webb, D-Va.

No Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the motion.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., created the PPACA bill by melding health bills developed by the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Lawmakers spent most of the morning talking about women’s health issues. In the afternoon, they returned to focusing mostly on PPACA bill proposals that would cut total funding for Medicare by about $500 billion over the next 10 years. If current budget trends continue, Medicare would get a total of about $5 trillion in funding over that period, according to analysts at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif.

Sen. John Reed, D-R.I., repeated Democratic arguments that the cuts will mainly affect the Medicare Advantage program, not “guaranteed Medicare benefits,” and that private insurers persuaded the government to set up the Medicare Advantage program by using the argument that private companies could provide better, cheaper health coverage than the government.

Instead, the Medicare Advantage program has turned out to be more expensive than traditional Medicare, and the extra funding devoted to the program “essentially goes to profits for insurance companies,” Reed says.

When Republicans talk about protecting Medicare Advantage plan members, “what they are trying to protect is the insurance company subsidies,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said few seniors care much about how much health plan executives make. “They care that they have coverage that they like, coverage that they’re paying for, coverage that they have chosen, and they’re being told by the federal government you cannot have what you want,” he said.

Senators also voted 100-0 to adopt an amendment offered by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. That amendment states that nothing in PPACA should be used to cut guaranteed Medicare benefits.

Reid, D-Nev., reported after the votes were completed that the Senate will be interrupting the PPACA debate this afternoon to get a classified briefing on the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senate leaders are predicting that roll call votes will start to take place after 11:30 a.m.

For earlier coverage of the Senate health bill debate, see these stories: