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Bayh, Lugar divided over health vote

But both agree Senate bill flawed, covers too few, has unknown cost


– Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., will vote for legislation to reshape the health insurance market despite reservations about some aspects. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., repeated his objections Monday, again saying he would vote “no.”

Bayh’s support has not been a given, but he issued a statement late Monday afternoon saying that “inaction will only cause our problems to fester, year after year. This proposal gives us a chance for a better health care system. The alternative is to have no chance of doing better, and that is unacceptable.”

The legislation would require nearly everyone to have health insurance, provide subsidies to help low-income people buy it and encourage employers to provide it with tax breaks for small businesses and penalties for larger ones. Lugar said the bill is flawed because it “leaves tens of millions not covered, fails to control costs and substantially adds to the deficit.” He said President Obama and Congress should focus on the country’s economic problems and job creation, not the health insurance bill, which he said is not legislation “that I could possibly support.”

As the Senate worked on the bill, Bayh and senators from Wisconsin raised concerns about the fees proposed on medical device manufacturers.

They were scaled back, as were fees on insurance companies and drugmakers.

All three industries have sizable operations in Indiana.

Bayh applauded aspects of the bill.

“This legislation, despite all its flaws, prohibits insurance companies from denying Hoosiers coverage because they have a medical condition,” he said.

“It prevents insurance companies from dropping people from their coverage because they become seriously ill.

“It limits the fees that insurance companies can charge consumers.

“It expands Medicare benefits so seniors can afford the prescription drugs they need. And it ensures that everyone can keep the right to choose their own doctor.”

But he said that “critics make some legitimate points.”

It’s not a government takeover of the health insurance system, he said, but “I would have preferred a system that is less prescriptive and more reliant upon consumer choice, competition and transparency in the marketplace.”

Bayh said the bill will lower medical expenses, which will help businesses. And he quoted a Congressional Budget Office assessment that the bill would cut the deficit.

But he cautioned that it will lower deficits “only if future Congresses keep their commitment to containing costs.”

Bayh’s vote for the final bill is not as critical to its passage as a procedural vote about 1 a.m. Monday to block a filibuster and lead to the likely Christmas Eve final vote.

That vote will require a simple majority for passage. The procedural vote required 60 votes.