Colorado senators waiting on budget study before deciding on health bill

MEMBERS OF AMERICANS for Prosperity, Western Slope Conservative Alliance and join together Tuesday in front of the Grand Junction federal courthouse to protest the health-care bill being debated in the Senate.

After meeting with President Obama on Tuesday, both Colorado senators said they’re awaiting the results of a budget study before committing to a pending health care proposal.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, also said they wanted the measure to prevent insurance carriers from limiting benefits to patients.

One provision in the Senate bill would allow “reasonable limits” on benefits, according to a report in The Washington Post. The provision is included in a section of the bill titled “No lifetime or annual limits” on benefits and is aimed at preventing patients from facing large out-of-pocket expenses, the Post said.

Most details of the bill, however, remain unknown, pending an evaluation of the measure by the Congressional Budget Office.

Bennet continues to work for “health care reform that lowers costs, expands coverage and puts an end to arbitrary coverage limits,” said his Washington, D.C., spokeswoman, Deirdre Murphy.

Udall said he wants to ensure “all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care that isn’t limited in coverage.”

Udall said he is optimistic the bill that ultimately will be debated in the Senate will include programs to boost the number of rural physicians in the nation and a provision to direct federal money to prevention and wellness programs in rural areas.

The Rural Physician Pipeline Amendment is patterned after a program at the University of Colorado aimed at encouraging physicians to establish practices in rural areas.

Udall said he wants to see $20 million for the program, or $4 million a year for five years. Money for the program would have to be found in the appropriations process, he said.

About $10 billion expected to be marked for prevention and wellness programs should be divided between rural and urban areas so the less-populated areas also see benefits, he said.

Like other senators, Udall said he has yet to see the full scope of the bill because it’s being studied by the budget office. Whether he’ll support it depends on whether it saves money, he said.

“The bottom line has to be black, not red,” he said. “I await the final language of any compromise that has been reached and will study it closely. I will be disappointed if a public option is not included.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will shape the bill that goes to the floor with amendments. No one else knows what Reid will propose, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, told Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on the Senate floor Friday.

“I would say to the senator from Arizona, I am in the dark almost as much as he is, and I am in the leadership,” Durbin said, according to a transcript.

Udall said he is hopeful the Senate will pass final legislation before Christmas.


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