Senate rejects Dole's amendments
to bipartisan health reform bill
April 19, 1996
Web posted at: 1 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jeff Levine
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a bipartisan vote Thursday, the Senate rejected Majority Leader Bob Dole's proposal to establish tax-deductible medical savings accounts.
The Kassebaum-Kennedy bill is generally considered the best hope for health care reform in Congress. But the measure could have run aground on Dole's proposal to establish medical savings accounts.
With Vice President Al Gore presiding over the Senate and ready to cast his vote in case of a tie, the Senate rejected the proposal by 52 votes to 46, a gesture for which Gore later expressed thanks.
"I also want to commend the small, but decisive number of Republican senators who joined with the Democrats in a bipartisan majority to strip out of this important legislation a terrible provision," said Gore.
Dole hopes the proposal to create tax-free accounts for health expenses will prevail later in the congressional process, in a House-Senate conference.
However, the bill's authors, Nancy Kassebaum, a Republican from Kansas, and Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy, want to keep their bill free of add-ons, "because cumulatively, they would cause a real collapse if it carried too much baggage," Kassebaum said.
Even so, other Dole amendments -- including a measure calling for more tax deductibility for health insurance bought by the self-employed -- were included in the proposal.
In its unamended form, the Kassebaum-Kennedy bill has broad bipartisan support in the Senate.
The Kassebaum-Kennedy bill's goal is to increase access to health insurance. Those with health problems would have an easier time getting coverage and moving to another job would not mean automatically losing insurance.
It is estimated some 25 million Americans would benefit from these limited reforms.
Families like the Allbrights are following the health care debate on Capital Hill with intense interest.
Betty Kay Allbright runs a day care business, and her husband Barry is a real estate agent. Since both are both self-employed, buying health insurance is expensive, particularly because Barry has severe asthma.
"At one time, it was almost $800 per month for the coverage," said Barry.
And no matter how hard they looked, the Allbrights could not find a better deal for their health insurance.
Once out of the Senate, the bill still has to be reconciled with a more controversial version that has already cleared the House. That bill contains medical savings accounts, which the White House said it will veto. The Senate has postponed a final vote till Tuesday on that bill.
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