Senate moves closer to first overhaul vote

Posted Dec. 01, 2009, at 10:43 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Senate pushed toward the first votes on sweeping health overhaul legislation Tuesday amid rancorous debate over whether the bill would repair the nation’s safety net or bankrupt the country.

Despite the partisan back-and-forth the first amendment offered was bipartisan, a measure to increase preventive care for women co-sponsored by Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. Snowe was the only Senate Republican to vote in favor of Democrats’ health care legislation in committee.

Their amendment would give the Health and Human Services secretary authority to require health plans to cover additional preventive services for women and was inspired in part by controversial recommendations last month that women undergo fewer mammograms and Pap smears to test for cancer. Republicans seized on those recommendations as early signs of rationing of care they say would happen under the Democrats’ 10-year, nearly $1 trillion health bill.

The amendment doesn’t specifically address mammograms or spell out what additional services would be covered, leaving that to the discretion of the HHS secretary. The Congressional Budget Office said the amendment would cost $940 million over a decade.

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