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Senate panel votes in favor of healthcare reform bill


WASHINGTON A comprehensive healthcare reform bill has passed one of its first hurdles in Congress.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee voted 13-10 Wednesday in favor of the America’s Affordable Health Care Choice of 2009, with committee Democrats voting in favor of it and Republicans voting against it.

The $611 billion bill would penalize employers that don’t buy health insurance for employees — exempting small businesses — as well as individuals who refuse to buy it for themselves, but would ban health insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions while allowing the government to sell insurance. It would also provide assistance for poor people, financed in part through a tax of 1%, to 5.4% on people making $350,000 or more per year and large cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

Industry groups and some Republicans have criticized the bill as detrimental to job growth, while Republican members of the HELP Committee have criticized the bill’s cost, according to published reports.

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