Health Care Reform Faces Tougher Senate Test

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Health Care Reform Faces Tougher Senate Test

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The focus of health care reform now shifts back to the Senate after the House of Representatives passed a historic and controversial reform bill over the weekend.

The House bill, a $1.2 trillion package including the so-called public option plan that was almost universally scorned by business and retailing interests, passed Saturday even though it was opposed by every Republican representative and 39 Democrats. NACS, for example, pointed out the bill has potentially devastating provisions, including an employer mandate that requires companies to offer coverage or pay hefty payroll taxes.

However, the Web site reported Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is facing dissent from fellow Democrats worried that he has no final bill, no Democratic consensus on the way ahead and no guarantee he'll finish by year's end.

Even before Saturday's House vote, senators had begun to question why Reid suddenly shifted course two weeks ago and threw his weight behind a public option plan, laying bare the deep divisions in his caucus between liberals and moderates, POLITICO reported.

These concerns leave many observers questioning whether the Senate will even begin a floor debate on the issue until after Thanksgiving. Even Reid, who said he's confident the Senate will pass health reform legislation, acknowledged a final bill might not be completed until early next year.

In addition, Reid faces the concerns of moderates in his own party who are nervous about merging any Senate legislation with the more liberal House bill supported by President Barack Obama. Moderates also cite the budget-busting $1.2 trillion price tag of the House bill, its reliance on a "millionaire's tax" to fund the overhaul and the House's refusal to include a tax on so-called Cadillac health plans because the tax is opposed by Democrats' allies in organized labor, according to POLITICO.

Despite these hurdles, pressure will be on the Senate to pass some kind of sweeping health care reform. NACS thanked the 39 Democratic representatives and the entire Republican caucus for their stance against "a bad set of reforms that will hurt the convenience and petroleum retailing industry and ultimately each individual."

The convenience store trade association urged the business community to covey to the Senate "the necessity to get health care overhaul right by addresses waste, curbing costs and responsibly reforming the insurance markets to work better for individuals and employers."

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