Senate nears vote on healthcare reform bill

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Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) (left) sits next to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) (left) sits next to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).

Senators need to reach an agreement on their healthcare reform bill possibly by today to pass a bill before Christmas. Supporters of the long-term care insurance provision have been working fiercely to secure its inclusion in the bill.

The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging has been urging its members to contact their senators about supporting the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. The provision has come under criticism from Republicans and a few conservative Democrats. The program is expected to reduce the deficit by a whopping $72 billion from 2010 to 2019 but later contribute to it, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Critics argue it would be a large unsustainable entitlement program. On Friday, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed that it could become unsustainable because sicker people are likely to sign up for the program. That would increase the premiums. 

Meanwhile, the Senate has approved an omnibus spending bill (H.R. 3288). It includes $498 million for health professions workforce programs and $244 million for nurse training. The House approved the package last week.