Democrats' Health Care Bill: Different Goals Collide

Senate Finance Committee vote on a broad U.S. healthcare overhaul was delayed on Monday as it took longer than expected for budget experts to estimate the bill's cost.

The panel, chaired by Senator Max Baucus, agreed to put off a vote until it received a preliminary analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Aides said that number would not be ready until later in the week, killing hopes for a vote as early as Tuesday.

"We are expecting CBO scores later this week and will vote after we get those scores," a panel aide said, The New York Times reports.

It was also reported, the pivotal Senate committee voted last week to strike two amendments that would establish a so-called public option to compete with private insurance coverage. The committee is awaiting a report on cost projections from the Congressional Budget Office before it votes on the legislation, which does not contain a government-run health insurance plan or require employers to offer insurance to their employees.

But the bill created in July by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions includes the two fundamental provisions that the finance committee legislation does not -- and Reid will be forced to meld the two bills into one for the full Senate to consider as early as Oct. 12.

The question over whether Reid will push for a government-run insurance plan in the final legislation remains to be answered. The Senate Majority Leader has said a public option is essential to reform, and other leading Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have stressed its importance in expanding coverage to the millions of uninsured.

"We are going to have a public option before this bill goes to the president's desk," Reid said in a conference call with constituents last Thursday. "I believe the public option is so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us," FOXNews reports.

Meanwhile, as Democrats prepare to take up health care legislation on the floor of the Senate and the House, they are facing tough choices about two competing priorities. They want people to pay affordable prices for health insurance policies, but they want those policies to offer comprehensive health benefits.

But Republicans say the new requirements would mean added costs for some consumers and for the government, which would help pay premiums for millions of low- and middle-income people.

That tension between keeping costs low and improving coverage is just one of many challenges facing Congress and the Obama administration as they head toward the final stages of the effort to pass health care legislation, New York Times reports.